After their 2016 debut album, as part of a rising group of young British bands determined to push boundaries, Black Foxxes helped to blow the doors off the drab and polished British rock scene and sent it hurtling towards the fine-fettled, foamy-mouthed beast we find it in 2018. Now, the band mark their return with an assured and thoroughly impressive second pass on new album REIðI, set for release on 16th March via Search and Destroy Records.

Translating from old Norse as “rage”, there’s oddly little vitriolic anger on direct display on REIðI. Instead, this is a record which smoulders internally. If there’s rage, it’s the kind that burns a hole from the inside out. As a result, the album brims with feelings of solitude, lust, hope and introspective reflection. Experimental both in tone and style, the sheer instrumentalism and flair that sets this band apart from the pack is still in evidence all over the grooves of REIðI, but with a tempered understanding that, sometimes, a little less is a lot more. Trading the instantaneous for the nuanced is a risk that few in Black Foxxes’ position are willing to take, and it’s to their credit that they’ve chosen to forge ahead instead of remaining stationary.

The first big hitter comes in the form of ‘Manic In Me’ – a demonstration that when he wants to, Holley can easily crack out a radio ready anthem with a flourish of the pen and a cursory nod to festival-headliner pathfinders like Biffy Clyro and Foo Fighters. It’s impressive in terms of its pop credentials and craftsmanship, but it’s not what makes this band exciting.

Likewise, as a single, ‘Sæla’ works perfectly. It’s an extremely capable and unique take on a meandering pop-rock structure, building towards a driving finale in a beautiful channelling of Stereophonics’ smasher Dakota by way of lo-fi champions The Weakerthans. Immediately followed by the mellow disco groove of ‘The Big Wild’, which brings to mind the latter stages of Incubus and even elements of Fleetwood Mac and Darwin Deez, it’s a one-two punch that marks out the band’s intention of pushing the boundaries, whilst colouring very much between lines. You might have heard pinches of this or that influence, but you’ve never heard it all condensed into one song quite like this, and it’s all done with faultless style and class.

With the label-pleasing numbers out of the way early, it’s on the meat of this record that Black Foxxes really shine, and many of the album tracks serve as early indications of the extremely exciting direction that Holley’s song writing is taking.

The haunting piano intro of ‘Oh, It Had To Be You’ is pierced by some skull-crushing thrusts of distortion, before a metronomic crescendo takes a hypnotic, repetitive phrase to places that it shouldn’t rightfully belong. But then that’s the magic of this band – they’re masters of the gear shift, the unexpected textural landscape, the musical sleight of hand. One moment a song is burning to the ground in an inferno, the next it’s smouldering, flowing like molten glass, changing shape in a way in which you never thought it could. In this case, it’s a howled falsetto that underpins a rolling climax, simmering tenderly over sublimely constructed string arrangements. Black Foxxes somehow manage to be grandiose without ever being pompous, theatrical without verging on the pantomime.

One of the album’s stand-out moments arrives on ‘JOY’ courtesy of an inspired brass section and distorted vocal combination which deserves more than a tip of the hat to the absolutely immaculate production from long-time collaborator Adrian Bushby, perhaps best evidenced on the delicate ‘Take Me Home’ - another cinematic, slow-burning number built from scant drum machines, piano and delicate guitar work. At a relatively young age and still an early stage in their musical career, Black Foxxes are already sounding more nuanced and informed than almost the entirety of the previous generation of trite, moulded and bland rock filler. Whilst it might not be as an immediate revelation and as complete a body of work as their debut, on REIðI it’s clear that Black Foxxes are stretching themselves creatively, emotionally and technically further than a good portion of their peers.

It’s bands like theirs that prevent our scenes from stalling, bands with an unwavering belief in their own direction - bands who are never more at home than when they are out adventuring on rough waves, unimpeded by public demand or critical opinion.

Are there a few misses and nearly-but-not-quites on this record? Yes, there are, but what’s really important here is the nagging feeling that REIðI leaves you with. The imperfections and the what-ifs are exactly what make it so intriguing as a glimpse of where Holley could take things. It’s an album which poses more questions than it answers. It gets under your skin like a tick. It leads you to the river but never forces to drink. It leaves you wondering what Black Foxxes are trying to say, but never gives you the answers. The scab of the question itches, and you’re left wanting nothing but to scratch it.

Maybe REIðI then, is the soundtrack to the confusion of our modern existence, and our futile struggle with it. In a world that’s still so often without answers, we’re lucky to have them continually asking questions regardless.