The Joy Formidable - AAARTH - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Joy Formidable - AAARTH

by Brian Thompson Rating:7 Release Date:2018-09-28
The Joy Formidable - AAARTH
The Joy Formidable - AAARTH

No one can rightly accuse The Joy Formidable of repeating themselves. Since their inception more than a decade ago, the Welsh alt-rock trio have been sonic nomads, exploring the bounds of their partnership with each album serving as a stark aesthetic departure from the last. The winds of change are blowing once again, and the band’s fourth studio album, AAARTH, is their biggest leap yet. Spanning the breadth of their musical interests, The Joy Formidable’s latest effort links the past to the future, confidently opening up and allowing their already resolutely established sound to breathe and expand into the unknown.

Abrasive from the get-go, AAARTH is an angry record, steeped in outrage over the increasingly visible degree of global injustice. High energy album opener “Y Bluen Eira” doesn’t waste any time, with its sweltering explosion of sound and wall of rhythmic chanting. The album is littered with uptempo rockers, from the traditional headbanger “The Wrong Side” to the Metric adjacent “Go Loving” pulsating with animosity to the raucous jam session “What For” to violent, crunchy “You Can’t Give Me.” Even the tracks that are sprinkled with psychedelic, electric flourishes benefit from hard-hitting power chords.

But AAARTH has more tricks up its sleeve than simply cranking up the amps. The tender moments are where The Joy Formidable truly display the extent of their drastic rebirth. The ballads flaunt an increasing embrace of the strange. There are traditional slow tunes, like “Absence” with its haunting melody forged out of gentle piano riffs and hushed vocals, but other soft moments are far less orthodox. “Cicada (Land on your Back)” has a slowed down, industrial swagger, and “All in All” is a twisted, cosmic lullabye that still maintains a squealing guitar solo. By the time we get to the otherworldly ”Dance of the Lotus,” we’re in an entirely different realm altogether. Bombastic and deeply textured, the singular, offbeat number plays like the soundtrack to a dystopian wasteland.

AAARTH rarely feels conventional, a fresh album for a band that has always carved its own path. Even in the crests of the album, where it feels a bit disjointed and overly ambitious, it’s invigorating to see The Joy Formidable really swing for the fences. From swirling “The Better Me” to the spastic, brawl-ready “Caught on a Breeze,” the record finds the band crafting some of their most inspired work to date. Inconsistencies and disequilibrium aside, AAARTH is a resounding battle cry from a band that isn’t running out of ideas anytime soon.

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