The Joy Formidable - Wolf's Law
Record Label: Atlantic Records
Release Date: January 23, 2013
The Joy Formidable are a strange band. In one way the band are the embodiment of of a genre that should be extremely widespread. A lazy description of them would be that they’re a guitar driven alternative rock band with a female singer. Yet, that description feels hollow and like it comes nowhere near accurately describing the sounds that the Welsh trio deliver to us. It’s this instant unpigeonholableness (yes, my friends, it’s really a word) that sets The Joy Formidable apart from other bands. At once, they manage to be a stadium rock band, an indie pop band and pretty much everything in between. Their debut album, The Big Roar, released back in to 2011 showcased a band ready to take over the world through its accessibility, innovation and, of course, “Whirring”, quite possibly one of the best tracks released in the past decade. Two years later, the band have returned with their sophomore album, Wolf’s Law and their chance to, again, surprise and delight the masses.
Wolf’s Law is a tricky album. The entirety of the release is caught in fluctuation. Many tracks are wonderful, and have the ability to reach the dizzying heights that The Big Roar hit, but then other tracks are quite ordinary and, disappointingly average. Tracks such as opener "This Ladder Is Ours" and "Cholla" are absolutely superb. The former is true indie rock anthem material with The Joy Formidable's trademark epic guitar styling, Byran's soft but infectious vocals and a repetitive but catchy chorus. The track is quite obviously single material and is as good a start that the album could hope for. "Cholla" is along the same lines; a little less elevated but still all the same in its anthemic qualities. These two tracks, as well as most of of the first half of the release are exactly what we should expect from The Joy Formidable and stray very little from the sound set out on The Big Roar, so; so far so good.
However, it's with track five, "Bats" that things start to go a little astray for the first time. Honestly, "Bats" is quite annoying. The band sound like they're aiming at a pop song written by Muse, but it just falls flat with repetitive lyrics and vocals and the fact that the track is just pretty much nonsensical. "Maw Maw Song" has the exact same flaws; however this time round, it sounds a little like a joke track. The 'Maw Maw' in the title refers to the part of the chorus in which the band proceed to 'maw' the guitar line vocally. It's an over the top faux-metal track, and it doesn't work at all.
These lows, whilst extremely low, fail to overshadow when Wolf's Law manages to get it right. "Forest Serenade", "Silent Treatment" and closer, "The Turnaround" are all spectacular. "The Turnaround" deserves a special mention for just being so incredibly epic with a classic feel, Byran's wonderfully seductive vocals and warm, orchestral instrumentation. The track possibly surpasses "Whirring" for sheer goose-bump worthiness and is as perfect as an album closer comes.
Overall, Wolf's Law largely oversteps the sophomore slump. If those few misstep tracks were left behind, then Wolf's Law would be a wonderful album, however it's impossible to ignore that the middle of this album seems to give way to a lack of ideas. The Joy Formidable have all of the ingredients present to cross over the mainstream and become a true success story - they have both the talent and the individuality, however a little more focus is needed. If you're already a fan of The Joy Formidable, Wolf's Law isn't going to change this, and quite possibly this record will assist them is gathering quite a few more. The future looks bright for The Joy Formidable.
I think the last album was a bit better but if you listen to this one a little more it gets better with each listen. I definitely thought it would have been a much greater effort as an album though but there's always the next one.