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Album Review: AAARTH by The Joy Formidable

The Joy Formidable release their new album AAARTH on 28th September via Hassle Records. This is the sound of the band at their most immediate, expansive and ambitious. Although the album came into being as the band travelled the globe and recorded in their mobile recording studio, the music intertwines the whispering hills of Wales with the otherworldly rainbow canyons of the Utah / Arizona border. AAARTH unites the personal with the mythical and symbolic, as Ritzy Bryan says; “We’ve definitely made a colourful, mystical collage with this record, partly because of our surroundings. Those multi-coloured sunsets & the primeval elements of nature in the Southwest – it’s emboldened our imaginations in the songwriting and the production. I love stories and seeing symbolism and meaning change with different cultures and interpretations. I see it in my lyrics, a lot of the imagery plays on being ambivalent because I’m often expressing a lot of things at once. That’s true of the title; it falls somewhere between a scream, an exaltation, a play on words, and then this motif of the bear (“arth” in Welsh) that spiritually represents strength, wisdom & healing.”

Opener ‘Y Bluen Eira’ simmers and builds before the luscious guitars of ‘The Wrong Side’ announces the return of The Joy Formidable in every way that made you first fall in love with them. The guitars are a little grander and a little more ambitious, but they retain that unique Joy Formidable flavour and when the chorus kicks in you feel like you’re getting reacquainted with an old friend.

‘Go Loving’ is a forthright and stomping alt rock track that oozes class and energy, the main riff couldn’t be any meatier. ‘Cicada (Land on your Back)’ excels in it’s detailed guitar work whilst ‘All in All’ has a fragile beauty that suckers you in. Bryan’s tender vocal comes to the fore and the emotion breaks out of every note, beautiful stuff.

‘What For’ is a decent track, however it stands out as being the weakest on AAARTH. It’s not a bad track, it just lacks a bit of direction. Thankfully, order is restored with ‘The Better Me’ and ‘Absence’ which are up there with the band’s best work. The former is a big rock number that reinforces the band’s knack ability to harness a big riff with hooks while the latter tones things down and takes a slow, gentle approach – evidence that the band can make as much impact in either form.

It’s obvious why ‘Dance Of The Lotus’ was the first single from the album – it’s the perfect balance of everything you knew and loved about the band and all of their new ambition. ‘You Can’t Give Me’ has the makings of a superb live track, already full of grandiose you can imagine how this will be expanded and stretched on stage. Closer ‘Caught On A Breeze’ finishes the album on a high point, the bassline line is so sumptuous you’ll want to stick it on repeat and those riffs? Waowzers. A welcome return.

AD Rating 7/10

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