The title of Black Foxxes’ sophomore album, translated from Icelandic, means “rage.” Presumably, it comes from a lyric on the album’s closer “Float On”:
Now I understand rage, a feeling that is never subdued.
While Mark Holley’s assessment of the feeling is accurate, it doesn’t sum up the record quite so well. In fact, the biggest difference between Reiði and the band’s debut I’m Not Well is how much more subdued this record is.
“Breathe” opens the record slowly, like “I’m Not Well” did on their last, but while that song exploded into a heavy chorus after its building intro, “Breathe” goes in the other direction. The band dials things back to just Holley’s falsetto and a clean guitar line. I’m Not Well was an auspicious debut because of its raw passion, with sky-scraping crescendos at the drop of a dime. Here, everything is far more paced and measured. What’s lost in sheer unpredictability is gained in intricacy and attention to detail. The chorus of “Breathe” his just as hard as the one in “I’m Not Well,” even though they couldn’t be less similar.
It’s hard to imagine “Am I Losing It” fitting anywhere on I’m Not Well. The most melodic song the band has ever written, it’s a light and catchy track punctuated by bright keys. Piano pops up again on “Take Me Home,” backed by sparse electronic beats. It’s a total curveball from the band, but it’s pulled off with ease. Other songs don’t stray quite as far from the straightforward rock the band established themselves on, but still manage to tweak the sound it to prevent it from getting stale. “JOY” is a perhaps the heaviest song the band has ever written, Holley’s warbled screams clash with buzzsaw guitars. The song completely devolves into a cacophonous mess (complete with trumpet!) by the bridge, stretching their brand of alt-rock to its busiest endpoint.
The chorus of that song dares the listener to call Holley erasable, but after Reiði, it’s going to be hard to forget about Black Foxxes. I’m Not Well proved their competence, but Reiði solidifies them as one of the most ambitious and talented rock bands around. Back in 2016 I wrote that “you’ll want to be able to say you were a fan before they take over the world,” and it’s looking to me like this is your last chance, because Black Foxxes are only getting started.