Album Review: FOES - 'The Summit Lies Skyward'
For FOES to follow on from what I feel was the most powerfully moving EP of 2015 is a pretty tall order - FOES’ 'Antecedence' EP still sits firmly on my regular rotation in its entirety. In between then and now, the Liverpool quartet signed with Basick Records and teased us with two music videos from their debut album. The first video to come from 'The Summit Lies Skyward', back in March, was ‘Beautiful Fiction’. As the lead single this was reassuring. The song is well in keeping with the style and themes of their earlier work, whilst still sounding new and exciting. This was followed by the release of ‘The Everest’ in June. Showing a brighter mood, this uplifting tune is a slow-building journey to “the feels”. ‘The Everest’ brings the album to a close.
Back in late July, FOES dropped ‘Young Sovereign’. I had to readjust myself after hearing this for the first time – and sometimes still do – as this track goes in hard. Appearing as the second track on the album, ‘Young Sovereign’ is a surprising belter amongst the emotionally-mature songmanship that FOES are well known for. That’s not to say that ‘Young Sovereign’ lacks emotion, but that riff is definitely the stand-out of the track.
‘No Sleepers Verse’ makes a reappearance with a shiny new coat of paint. Previously released as the second single from ‘Antecedence’, this reworking adds a little something extra to what was already a great piece. That refinement is evident throughout the whole of the album. FOES formed in 2013 and have managed to achieve an impressive cohesion as a band in a relatively short time. This connection is echoed through the album, pulling everything together as one. This isn't a selections of songs that have been thrown together and called an album, but a collection well thought out.
Worth paying attention to is the quality of the lyrics and vocal patterns. While the technical ability demonstrated by the instrumentals, the depth of the lyrics will produce more and more depth the longer you listen. From the first lines of album opener 'The Choir Invisible' – "If it's to end in fire we'll burn together or will it end in chambers filled with light. I'm looking up above and down the barrel of a gun and praying to a ghost to be polite" – right through to the finale, 'The Everest', the high standard of story-telling and imagery is ever-present.
Slap-bang in the middle is the heart of this album. Bands will often indulge themselves with a song that you wouldn't find released as a single, nor would it be on their greatest hits many years from now, but it's something that they've poured their heart into. 'From Stillness Came Slow Bloom' is, to me, that track. At nearly 7 minutes long, this progressive and triumphant composition takes you on an unexpected journey through the beautiful souls of FOES.
The back half of 'The Summit Lies Skyward' doesn't let up, either. The whole album is packed with tracks that will keep you returning for more. I had high hopes, but also reservations (...what if this breaks my mind in two...?), for FOES ability to pull this off. Oh boy have they (...the heavens have opened, I've seen God...). It makes me wish I had four hands, so I could give it four thumbs up.
The Summit Lies Skyward is out now via Basick Records and is available on iTunes and Spotify.