North Wales’ The Joy Formidable seems to have the knack for kicking off new years with panache. In January 2011, they released The Big Roar to considerable acclaim. In 2013, Wolf’s Law made its way into the public consciousness.
This record takes the foundation the trio of Ritzy Bryan (vocals, guitar), Rhydian Dafydd (bass, vocals), and Matt Thomas (drums, percussion) commenced on The Big Roar and expands it with the sap of more experiences and bigger stages.
The majority of Wolf’s Law was recorded in a cabin in Portland, Maine, after the groundwork was laid in the band’s home milieu in the UK. Putting the thing to tape was a matter of shutting out the world and focusing on the snow-imposed segregation. “It gave us the solitude to concentrate fully on the album that wouldn’t have been possible elsewhere,” notes Bryan.
It is without question that said solitude plays a role in knitting together the bones of what is a rather lean but nevertheless ambitious piece of rock and roll. The songcraft is notable in its immediacy yet certainly not imposing in its intricacy; the songs never feel out of hand or beyond the level of steering wheel drumming and/or toe-tapping.
The bold, colorful “This Ladder Is Ours” starts Wolf’s Law as an impressive statement. With accelerating and ascending guitar plowing along with Thomas’ drumming and Dafydd’s garage anthem bass-playing, the track sparkles and winds right into the spunky, knife-sharp “Cholla.”
Then there’s “Tendons,” with a grubby but beautifully flaring undercurrent of, according to Bryan, a “very peculiar, fucking love song.”
Naming a favorite track takes some doing, but any fair discussion has to include the sublime “Maw Maw Song.” This piece of aggressive protest art whips and pounds with electro-rock accoutrements and swims in its own blood, sating itself on Bryan’s sometimes cooing, sometimes scowling vocals. And don’t even get me started on the hammering blister of a solo that rides through. Damn.
Wolf’s Law comes as a matter of connection, of not ignoring the sleaze of consumerism when in the snow of Maine and of learning how it all relates in sickness and in health. The Joy Formidable’s insistence on playing things both ways, through damaging wrecks of rock and closely saccharine blurs of “fucking love songs,” is why this disc is making an impact and why this band matters.