The Joy Formidable – AAARTH

The first album to be released on their own Seradom label, AAARTH finds The Joy Formidable at their most comfortable. Their newfound freedom has clearly benefited them on a creative level. The Welsh group’s fourth record places them at the forefront of aggressive, yet still intelligent sounding, guitar-based music, as they manage to evolve with each release and explore new territory. Undoubtedly their finest record since their debut, The Big Roar, AAARTH is a sonic assortment of interesting lyrics, psych instrumentation, crushing riffs and intense rhythms, the title referring to ‘arth’ the welsh word for bear.

Frontwoman Ritzy Bryan’s anger has seemingly soundtracked this LP in what has been a tumultuous period in the world on both a personal and global level. Their initial ideas came when the band toured the world, recording in a mobile studio, mainly along the Utah/Arizona border. “We’ve definitely made a colourful, mystical collage with this record, partly because of our surroundings. Those multi-coloured sunsets and the primeval elements of nature – it’s emboldened our imaginations in the songwriting and the production,” she explained.

The hypnotic ‘Y Bluen Eira’ starts things off in sudden fashion as a hurtling riff signals their intent from the offset. ‘The Wrong Side’ then arrives as one of the record’s finer compositions, with thought-provoking lyrics that co-exist seamlessly with the feverish guitar work: “Voices from the past/ they say the future will be kinder/ They’re living all our memories.”

Meanwhile, ‘Go Loving’ is an intense mix of delightful melodic evolutions and driving riffs, whilst ‘All In All’ begins tenderly at first before exploding into life in stunning fashion. However, the likes of ‘The Better Me’ permit AAARTH from hitting the dizzying heights of The Big Roar, with the track languishing in mid-tempo territory for too long. Yet, there are still enough brilliant moments to make this LP a remarkable shift for the band with ‘Dance of the Lotus’ taking you on a reverb-laden journey, and ‘Caught on a Breeze’ capping proceeding off in fine style with a sharp blast of heaviness.

Overall, this record is more layered than we expect from The Joy Formidable, these three Welsh musicians take you on a journey through nature via the sonic cravings of the band; “We wanted some kind of rebirth, the way you do in a tribal drug ceremony. We wanted to lose ourselves and start again.” They’ve done exactly that and, in so doing, they’ve produced a fine album.

Paul Hill