NEW ALBUM REVIEW
The Joy Formidable
Produced by The Joy Formidable
Mixed by Andy Wallace
It’s not often that I come across new music in whatever form and scream “WOW!” at the top of my voice. Not that it happened with Welsh power/alternative trio The Joy Formidable either. My reaction was more of a silent jaw-drop than anything else.
It was on my last visit to my former home in Austin, TX in December of last year that an old friend I was visiting played the band’s first, and at that time only full album release, “The Big Roar,” on vinyl.
Up to that point the music had been very much in the background as we reminisced, at times rather loudly, about old times. Then he put The Joy Formidable on the deck and I suddenly realised the music had stopped all conversation.
“The Big Roar,” was the band’s debut album, and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It was as accomplished as anything I’d heard in a long long time. It was intelligent, challenging and thought provoking rock music at a much higher end of the style scale. I downloaded it immediately and haven’t stopped playing it since. Well, at least until now…
This new album from Ritzy Bryan (vocals, guitar), Rhydian Daffydd (bass, vocals) and drummer Matt Thomas is really quite stunning. It’s as close to perfection (both as a production and an emotional experience) as an album, this early, from a band this young, could possibly be.
“Wolf’s Law,” recorded in Maine during mid-late 2011, is a mature, arena-sized statement. Some are making comparisons to Muse, but that’s just a stop-off point; a mere convenience.
You can hear so many influences on there that it all ends up being The Joy Formidable and formidably joyous. From progressive (try a sprinkle of early Yes), to hard rock (a dash of Zeppelin III perhaps), through to nineties shoe gazers Lush (circa “Superblast”), and you have just the tip of the iceberg.
As with all great albums, it’s the songs that stand on their own. The playing and execution are exemplary, of course, but the construction of songs like opener “This Ladder Is Ours”(all string section and linear attack), the riff-happy pop genius of “Cholla,” and the epic, heavy rock tumult of “Maw Maw Song” are simply breathtaking.
This albums sounds like it was made by a band at least five albums in and headlining stadiums already. That could be construed as a negative, but with this band it simply comes across as the natural order of things. They are progressing at an exponential rate.
From a drummer’s perspective Matt Thomas provides the band with an unexpected thunder that gives the music an almost metallic feel at times.
His playing has the sheer power of a Dave Grohl, and the almost metronomic quality and creativity of former Cardiacs drummer Dominic Luckman, along with some wonderfully subtle use of the double bass drum pedal.
His mixture of feel and chops gives The Joy Formidable such a drive and purpose that Bryan and Daffydd are given breathing space to create these works of art and that gives them a steady anchor. Thomas really plays an outstanding set here.
If an album can be in the top three albums of 2013 in January then “Wolf’s Law” is exactly that. The Joy Formidable have produced an epic recording of gargantuan proportions that will probably catapult them to stadium status before anyone knows what happened. Wouldn’t that be precious?
Of course it would. Go and buy it. That’s an order.
“Wolf’s Law” is available now to download, on CD or vinyl.