Welsh trio The Joy Formidable have been shaping this debut album for years. Current single Austere came out in its original form way back in 2008, and three other songs on The Big Roar have been released in the intervening years. If you want a model for careful, gradual career building, look no further than this lot.
While long-standing fans must be weary from all that waiting, it has proved a wise move for the band, enabling them to tour around the world – using their own funds – and gracefully step up from support slots to headline act. The live show was honed; new songs were written; old songs were perfected. And now the debut album is ready to send them stellar.
The Big Roar is huge: a roller-coaster of an album driven on by urgent, accelerating grunge riffs and punchy pop melodies. The Joy Formidable’s template is simple. They create a basic melody that Ritzy Bryan sings with ethereal majesty, and build it upwards into an irresistible, molten-lava crescendo. As with Muse, it’s almost unthinkable that this band only has three members.
Well aware of their limitations as individuals, they work hard on this debut album to expand upon them, making the sum greater than the parts. Older songs are subtly remixed and extended – Whirring now has an almighty, hair-raising coda; Cradle has a rich new sheen – and the fresh songs bring changes in attitude and tone. On Llaw = Wall, Ritzy steps aside from the microphone so her bandmate Rhydian Dafydd can have a turn; Buoy starts like an eerie xx track and doesn’t get much friendlier as it mushrooms upwards and outwards. Indeed, the second half of The Big Roar is, at times, a chilly, disconcerting listen.
This album’s long gestation period brings some flabbiness too as The Joy Formidable try to add depth: the man’s screams during the intro; the ‘roar’ at the end of Austere; the overlong opening track; the Maruyama interlude. Some pruning could have tightened all this up, especially as the band’s songs speak volumes for themselves. Nevertheless, The Big Roar is a powerful signal of intent and a fantastic debut.
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