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FOES – The Summit Lies Skyward
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FOES – The Summit Lies Skyward

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Bearded prog protagonists FOES have been around since 2013. Two critically acclaimed EPs (post-punk rocker ‘Ophir’ and the more proggy ‘Antecedence’) and a host of tours supporting the likes of 36 Crazyfist and Hacktivist later, the time has finally come for the Liverpool quartet to unveil their full-length debut. Having already conquered the short form format, how will FOES (the acronym apparently stands for ‘Fall of Every Sparrows’) fare when faced with creating a whole album?

‘The Choir Invisible’ sets the scene; a delicate mood piece full of gorgeous harmonies that sets its sights high, spinning a yarn of a freedom found and lost across four minutes of string-laden tension building before launching into the crunching riff of ‘Young Sovereign’.

Possessing in its first and last passages a sonic pounding that’s more akin to a nu metal outfit in full swing than the sonic noodlings of their proggy peers, the song showcases the many faces of FOES even as they spin their tale of identity crisis, singer Chris Mackrill declaring ‘you’re painting a picture and telling a story of anyone else but you’.

So far so good. ‘Beautiful Fiction’ returns to more progressive territory. A contender for standout track of the album, James Lorenzo’s Neal Peart-esq drumming meshing perfectly with Mackrill and Joe Danher’s swooping guitars.

It’s a precision groove of which the likes of Rush, Karnivool and – more recently – Dream the Electric Sleep would be proud, and proves the perfect foil for the brooding ‘No Sleepers Verse’, conjuring up as it does a smoldering scorched Earth soundscape for the hard of sleeping. 

‘Sworn Host’ – a harmonic if rather poppy post rocker – provides the necessary light to the shade, before ‘From Stillness Came Slow Bloom’ takes things down again, the death knell drumming and guitar reverb taking the listener on a heart-rendering journey of loss before the more optimistic instrumental reprise ends in a building crescendo of keys.

As for the question of whether the band have the musical nous for the longer format, while the two preceding EPs – by the band’s own admission – were a collection of songs with only a loose connectivity running throughout, ‘The Summit Lies Upward’ is constructed so as to present a musical flow; a traversal of mountains and valleys that is every bit as ambitious as the album title suggests.

From the driving ‘Orchestrator’ to the ethereal, starry ‘Brother Mortal’ to the off-beat almost Tool-like rhythms of ‘In Standing Vigil’, FOES are a band that – once hooked – make it pretty darn difficult to take your attention from for fear you might miss something. And if every sparrow must (apparently) fall in the process, so be it.

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