The Best Albums of 2011: #5

The Joy Formidable: The Big Roar

The Joy Formidable may be the best rock band to come out of Wales since Badfinger. Alright, alright, maybe that isn’t saying much, but seriously this band brings it. Led by the diminutive Ritzy Bryan, The Joy Formidable are a power trio in the most literal sense. This fact becomes apparent, almost from the very beginning of The Big Roar. The album opens up with the “The Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie.” A heavy-handed anthem of a song, that takes a bit to get going, but by the 3:00 minute mark is in full throttle. In many ways this opener represents the overall feel of the album. Guitar-driven, shoegazey rock that crescendos into big, bombastic anthems, loud enough to make your eardrums bleed.

Bryan is accompanied by a formidable [no pun intended] rhythm section comprised of bassist Rhydian Dafydd and drummer Matt Thomas. Considering how heavy Thomas plays, I have to imagine he replaced at least a half dozen drum heads during the recording of this album. In fact, one could argue (as I do) that Thomas’ muscular drumming is what really makes their sound explode. Certainly Bryan is the showpiece here. With sweet vocals and a blitzkrieg approach to the guitar, she gets most of the attention. But Thomas is a force that makes the difference between The Big Roar being a just decent album and being a great one.

As far as comparisons go, The Smashing Pumpkins and Silversun Pickups probably come to mind. But these guys are heavier than both. What’s more, the rhythms on display here — sometimes in odd meters — offer far more in variety than either (the pulsating “Austere” being a perfect example). In the end, The Big Roar is heavy but complex, angry but also sweet, and worthy of your time; but only if you’re willing to crank it up.

Select Cuts: The Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie, I Don’t Want to See You Like This, Austere, Cradle, The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade

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