With a new album, ‘Reiði’, recently released, Black Foxxes from Devon choose London Islington’s O2 Academy to throw their biggest party to date. It’s a quite warm Friday evening, and Spring is finally showing off. Nearly two years later the astonishing debut with ‘I’m Not Well’, Mark Holley, Anthony Thornton and Tristan Jane are back on the road with a UK/EU tour that marks a much-awaited return in the indie ecosystem of Great Britain.
The O2-branded venue in North London is already crowded, when I step in. Emily Isherwood is the first act to appear on stage, shortly followed by Distiller Records’ own Bloody Knees. I’d like to spend some words on the outfit from London and Cambridge: they play raw and honest tunes, clearly soaked in that guitar indie rock typical of ’90s. Their set is the ideal occasion to showcase the latest releases, as an anticipation of what will come in the next weeks and months.
Black Foxxes take the stage at nine o’ clock, breaking the silence with ‘Breathe’, the majestic opening track from their sophomore record. It’s exactly what everyone in the venue seems to be waiting for, for most of the crowd sings along “I wanna set myself free!”. The three-piece are used to let music speak on their behalf, with haunting rhythms, sharp bass lines, an exasperated use of delays and feedback for their guitars that made their signature sound stand out. ‘Maple Summer’ and the cathartic ‘I’m Not Well’ follow in the setlist, and are the right tribute to the long way this band came from playing in front of a handful of people to filling one of the most iconic venues of the city.
‘Manic In Me’ and ‘Sæla’, from the new album, are the poppiest tunes to date, yet seem to be a right fit in the band’s new picture. There’s space for smoother melodies, yet Foxxes didn’t lose their spirit, and a strong stage presence is something more than a clue. The second part of the set flows smoothly, with sudden changes of register, in between electrical storms (‘River’) and more experimental moments (‘JOY’, ‘Take Me Home’). The encore, finally, is a homage to the band’s early production, with the intense and still breathtaking ‘Husk’ and ‘Pines’, which leaves me there, staring at the stage and craving for more.
Black Foxxes had caught my attention no longer than two years ago, when I saw them playing a support slot for Nothing But Thieves. I started following them, appreciating their growth as musician which led them to the hard task of matching the glory of a boisterous and stormy debut LP.
Mission accomplished, for ‘Reiði’ witnesses a natural evolution and Holley & Co. are now sailing less agitated post-rock waters, still incarnating the spirit of a type of songwriting I would like to listen to more often, these days. Guitar feedbacks and noisy sonic progressions aren’t for everyone, yet Mark, Anthony and Tristan are able to take you by the hand and lead you through a journey you will hardly forget.