The greatest part of listening to a band grow right before your very eyes, in my opinion, is hearing the transition between albums. Especially between the first and second album. You leave yourself with many questions: Will this record sound like the first one? Will it be better? Will it be worse? Will this change my opinion of them? You hope it delivers. I want to feel the same way you felt the time you heard their music.
On Wolf’s Law, The Joy Formidable delivers. I feel like a brand new fan again.
The album follows up 2011’s The Big Roar. I’ll never forget where, in the middle of night, in the prongs of near sleep, I heard the opening part of “Whirring”. The song shook me awake. I had to listen. I had to hear more. I saved up my pennies and bought their LP. It was amazing. It was genius.
On Wolf’s Law, the album opens with the soft-flowing anthem “This Ladder is Ours”, a opening claim that the band is here but can climb up and up and up, a tune that you find yourself singing along to by the time the final chorus . Next comes the hard-hitting “Cholla”, another anthem-like fever pitch song with some amazing guitar work. “Tendons”, the album’s third track, has the band incorporating some of their best elements to form an amazingly creative song that continues to set the album up for some of the rest of the record’s best parts.
Then, like back-to-back blows from a heavyweight champion, “Little Blimp” and “Bats” come back to back, smack you in the mouth with some absolutely amazing guitar work from Ritzy Bryan (lead vocals/lead guitar) and Rhydian Dafydd (bass guitar). Drummer Matt Thomas is on top of his game too. Thrashing around and rocking out to this onslaught of pure heavy alt rock-meets-shoegaze bliss will leave you down for the count.
Then comes “Silent Treatment”, an honest somber acoustic tune that really allows Ritzy’s vocal prowess to shine through. She shows off her excellent voice and paying attention to the lyrics shows you the extreme creative idea, as the songs are just as well crafted lyrically as they are musically. The just as creatively powerful seemingly electronica-inspired “Maw Maw Song” comes next, ready to send you back into the album’s top hard-hitting ceiling. “Forest Serenade” comes next, possibly inspired by the band’s recording surroundings in rural winter Maine where most of the album was recorded. It’s just as well crafted as the rest of the record, and Ritzy really hits the high notes on this one.
The six-minute epic “The Leopard and the Lung” comes in next. The blend of smashingly loud guitars, soul-hitting synths and perfectly-placed piano, meshed with amazingly done vocal work and some of Thomas’ best drum work period. You feel completely satisfied at that point, and it seems the record has climaxed.
Instead, “The Hurdle” and “The Turnaround” come in. “The Hurdle” starts to soothe you back down to Earth, only to compel you to dance and bounce around by the song’s halfway point. “The Turnaround” allows you to process what exactly just happened. The soft, soothing sounds of Ritzy’s voice over top soft guitar, drums, and an orchestral piece (a very prominent part of the record in almost every song), and finally puts the finishing touches on you to a final, defining, deafening close…..
Or so you think. Locked away after a minute or so of silence, a piano begins to play and the hidden title track “Wolf’s Law” begins to play, just Ritzy’s voice and the piano. As the song goes on, it builds, and builds, and builds, until it erupts your senses with amazing detail and volume. It’s the album’s encore. It deserves an encore.
At the end of the day, the record is just as voluminous and just as crafty as The Big Roar, but where The Big Roar was more about being loud and long jams, Wolf’s Law is about well done songwriting and using many different elements as possible. There are still plenty of those amazing guitar moments for old fans to get behind, and it’s a just an amazing record.
An. Amazing. Record. Period.
FINAL VERDICT: 9/10
Check out “This Ladder is Ours”, “Cholla”, and “Wolf’s Law” below.
Wolf’s Law is available on January 22nd (this Tuesday) via Atlantic Records. Check out their website at http://www.thejoyformidable.com, where there are still pre-order packages available for the album.