Most people probably know of The Joy Formidable for their radio hit a while back (“Whirring), but those that thought nothing more of them are missing one of the most intense live bands around right now. The Joy Formidable is a Welsh rock band that mixes hard rock, wall of sound, metal drumming, and poetic lyrics to make a band that you feel smart listening to as well as head banging to. On stage singer and guitarist Ritzy acts and moves like a female Kurt Cobain, bassist Rhydian is bouncing around even getting so into the music as to punch cymbals, and drummer Matthew is silly throughout, punching the air to the beat of a song, making faces at the audience and even jumping on Ritzy’s guitar as he leaves.
Their first album appropriately The Big Roar, is a jolting listen that mixes both sophistication with raw energy, and despite this vicious bite is mixed beautifully. The opening track “The Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie” opens to a wall of sound that carries throughout the song and ends on a dense jam, which becomes a repeating yet never dull theme on the record. The album jumps to it’s heavier side immediately on “The Magnifying Glass” which mixes the wall of sound into it’s heavy sound and even distorts Ritzy’s vocals, which works surprisingly well considering the light tone of her voice. “I Don’t Want To See You Like This” goes back to their light sounding, heavy hitting side that makes a song both sweet and driving.
Next is one of my favourite songs on the album, “Austere” a song that opens with weird falsetto cries and a inconspicuous bass line that sounds vicious when distorted and explodes into it’s chorus with a screeching wall of sound that accomplishes the effect of creating a mental feeling of space within the soundscape, once again ending on a pounding jam. “A Heavy Abacus” is a dense and chugging song that seems more vocal focused but nevertheless shows their songwriting versatility while staying in the sound of the album. Next is standout “Whirring” that is not only a catchy song but a strangely arranged hard rock song that jumps dynamics and intensities amazingly. It also goes out on a jam longer than the “radio accessible” (ie verse chorusy) part of the song, that is nevertheless amazing to no end, changing feels 3 times, from building to metalesque to driving all while surrounding its listener in a wall of sound that allows the instruments space, AMAZING SONG TO SEE LIVE. No seriously check this shit out
The latter section of the album is a bit stranger, “Buoy” being a chugging dense song with a strange phrygian guitar passing through it and ends with drums and bird chirps. “Maruyama” is a strange interlude that just stays outside of being skippable by sounding as weird as it does. “Cradle” is the last fast shredding song on the album that once again mixes the grimey hardness of album with a wall of sound, a very intense song to see live. “Llaw = Wall” is a weird song that starts on a slow accordion sound and turns into a wall of sound thumper that pretty much just sounds like it’s building until it ends. “Chapter 2” is a strange distortion heavy song that sounds like if Bleach-era Nirvana had soundscaping in it. The album ends on the dense and fantastical “The Greatest Light is The Greatest Shade” that will have you repeating “This dream is, this dream is” and “happy…. for you, happy for you” for a while after”
Later this week I’ll talk about the second album, Wolf’s Law, and talk more about their live show I saw this summer.
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