“Nearer My God” by Foxing – Review
When I first listened to St. Louis rock band Foxing’s third album, Nearer My God, I could not decide if I loved it or hated it. There were so many oddities that the only thing I knew for certain was that it was unique. Later, I was looking through my library and noticed that it was my fourth most played album since I made this account three years ago. In two weeks I had listened to it nearly as many times as some of my all time favorites. With this revelation I realized that I loved this album. The question became “how much?”
The most important track on any album is the opener. This is the first song that the audience hears, where you try to draw them in and convince them to listen to the rest of the album. It should be unique, dynamic, interesting. As far as quality, you want it to be one of your better songs, since first impressions are everything, but not your best, as you don’t want to be accused of shooting your shot too soon. “Grand Paradise” does all of these things.
Nearer My God begins with a pulsating rhythm, a confident but slow step forward. The atmosphere grows louder, stronger, moving forward step by step until it peaks, crying out “I’m shock-collared at the gates of heaven!” The full instrumentation comes in, and “Grand Paradise” finally stands tall. Except, it hasn’t yet. You would be forgiven for thinking this crescendo was as high as the opener would reach, but a minute and a half later Foxing dares you to think greater. The true peak of this song blew me away the first time I heard it and still does to this day. The many voices separate and strengthen, shouting with a burning passion that the instruments are somehow able to implement into their own playing. With all the energy in the world behind it, the song suddenly crashes and returns to the pulsating rhythm it began with, accompanied by a haunting whisper of what had come to pass. It marks one of the most memorable songs of the year, which makes it a brilliant way to start an album.
While many exceptional albums can have a lack of standout songs due to them all being of an equal quality, the first five songs on Nearer My God are all fantastic in remarkably different ways. Even still, the one that charges even further forward in both quality and uniqueness is the shocking “Gameshark.” When I use the phrase “chaos in a bottle” to describe music, I mean that the song feels like controlled insanity, driven by adrenaline and packaged nice and pretty to sell on the market. While “Gameshark” is undoubtedly chaotic, it feels less bottled and more like a trained war hound. While it might seem like a runaway train at first, a closer inspection reveals that everything is meticulously crafted by a cold heart with malicious intent. The lyrics themselves even warn you of the “dizygotic twin of god in the cockpit” and that “death was begging for your company.” The entire story weaves a tale of an apocalypse you can’t bring yourself to look away from, utilizing Titanic references to paint a vivid image of destruction. Despite the rising suspense and intensity, nothing in the song frays your nerves like the ending, a muted anthem to the dead.
Lambert is the airport in Foxing’s hometown of St. Louis and also the name of the final song on the album. After the powerful “Won’t Drown,” this song feels like Nearer My God has run out of energy and is limping its way to the finish line with the last of its strength. However, the shock collar from “Grand Paradise” ties back into the lyrics as the listener arrives at an impassable electric fence, stopped from reaching the final destination. A sudden rush of power sweeps through and “Lambert” rises to cry out. It isn’t enough, though, and despite being nearer, the album never reaches God. The despair in the vocals is palpable, sending chills down your spine. Lyrically and musically, this song forms a bookend with “Grand Paradise” as they follow the similar path of a slow build, a mountainous high point, and an unavoidable fall as the lyrics tell of being locked out of Heaven. After nearly an hour of tension, you aren’t granted the release of success. Instead, it buries itself inside you as an unforgettable experience.
There are many complaints I have had about Nearer My God, but each time I listen again with a complaint in mind, I hear the album in a new context and it turns into a strength. On “Heartbeat” it sounds almost like the vocals and instrumentation are on different songs, but it naturally creates a suspense to match the lyrical content while staying close enough to still be a remarkably good song. With the complex lyrics, it can be difficult to understand what you are hearing, but that inspires you to actually go and read them, allowing you to see just how brilliant they actually are.
When every complaint you can have about an album only serves to make it stronger, you know that it is a truly stunning piece of art. The title track on Nearer My God asks the listener, “do you want me at all?” The answer is a resounding yes.
Final Verdict: Foxing set out to make a classic with this album, a target that would cause many bands to stay too close to their comfort zones in a mediocre showing. Instead, with a mix of ambition and dedication, Nearer My God is undoubtedly one of the best albums of the year.