Album Review: Phoxjaw – Royal Swan

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Royal Swan - Hassle Records

Bristolian quartet Phoxjaw are set to unveil their debut full length “Royal Swan” on 3rd July 2020 via Hassle Records, the album follows on from the band’s previous two EPs, 2018’s “Goodbye Dinosaur…” and 2019’s “A Playground For Sad Adults“. “Royal Swan” was borne of a cabin-fevered recording experience at a cottage in Devil’s Bridge in Wales, the claustrophobic environment of their temporary home left an indelible mark on the recording process, as did the enlisting of a range of local musicians, including drums recorded by Lewis Johns, Tom Haskins on saxophone and keyboards by William Blair, formerly of psychedelic 80s group Apple Mosaic, who makes his recorded debut on “Royal Swan“.

The short delicate introduction of ‘Charging Pale Horses‘ eases into ‘Trophies In The Attic‘, a track that blends dark grunge and post hardcore with prog and rock influences to impressive effect. The trio of singles that preceded ‘Royal Swan‘ are present and correct, the impressive ‘Triple AAA‘ is an obvious highlight that lifts the album with a burst of alt rock fuelled energy before the darkness descends once more with ‘You Don’t Drink A Unicorn’s Blood‘. “Royal Swan” continues to alternate and shift in style, comparatively upbeat blasts in the shape of ‘Half House‘, ‘The Monk‘ and ‘Teething‘, are juxtaposed against dark soundscapes, ‘Infinite Badness‘ and ‘Bats For Bleeding‘, the frankly unexpected, ‘An Owl Is A Cat With Wings‘, and the crushing epic finalè of the title track.

At times Phoxjaw veer dangerously close to prog, so there is obviously a touch of self indulgence present, but would you expect anything else from a band who release an album called “Royal Swan“? This is a debut album of contradictions with influences that are drawn from across the board, unpredictable and original are almost always a positive, but this is also a double edged sword, as the beast that is “Royal Swan” is neither fish nor fowl, trying to draw comparisons is pointless as this is something that changes track by track, sometimes mid song. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on the sound of Phoxjaw they head off down another dark rabbit hole, something that is both the strength and weakness of the “Royal Swan“.

You can pre-order and pre-save “Royal Swan” here