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The Joy Formidable - AAARTH (Album Review)

Thursday, 18 October 2018 Written by Milly McMahon

Having relocated from north Wales’ sweeping earthscapes to the rugged surroundings of Utah, the Joy Formidable have morphed expansively into a world of riff-heavy dream-gaze on their new album ‘AAARTH’.

Dripping in grand ambition, charging with blood-filled intent towards each emotional crescendo, here Ritzy Bryan’s guitars roar and her vocals soar, while Matthew James Thomas’s drums beat a threatening warning.

The trio’s departure from major label Atlantic following album two was embraced as a new chapter in which they might pursue fresh opportunities.

While ‘Hitch’ felt like an extension of their earlier work, its follow up explores a sound that requires conviction and experience to execute successfully. Those are qualities that the Joy Formidable possess, but they have challenged themselves hugely creating ‘AAARTH'. That alone should earn the band respect, even if the aesthetic may divide listeners.

Moments like Absence and All in All arrive to pause time and motion on a fast-paced collection. Beautifully delicate piano and cello lead Bryan’s ethereal tones in a poignant juxtaposition with the progressively harder rock that dominates the landscape. The guitar work on 'AAARTH' is also impressive, with Dance of the Lotus and Go Loving bringing the drama and showcasing the high octane results of the band’s melodic cohesion.

The LP is front-loaded, though, and later songs are ultimately forgettable. After the dust has settled, Cicada stands as the highlight. Both exotic and provocative, the siren-like qualities of the lyrics are deeply affecting: “Darkness and light, nothing to choose. Follow them all until it soothes. Land on your back and flap my wings. It's not for the sleeping that I sing.”

The Joy Formidable recently completed a tour with Foo Fighters and it seems their slow-burning status is continuing. Even with its flaws, ‘AAARTH’ has the right qualities to bring the world’s attention into sharper focus.

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