2011 was a watershed year for The Joy Formidable. The trio, made up of Ritzy Bryan (lead vocals, guitars), Rhydian Dafydd (bass, backing vocals) and Matt Thomas (drums, percussion) released their debut album The Big Roar after signing worldwide with Canvasback Music, a division of Atlantic Records, and saw their live show expand dramatically, having made good on the promise that had seen them widely talked about as one of the bands poised to break through to bigger stages and greater acclaim at the start of the year.
That the band have taken the opportunity offered with the release of their new album, Wolf’s Law to further widen their horizons and their sound will come as no surprise to anyone already familiar with their work to date or their live show. The blueprint for their worldview had been laid out on that debut album and the live shows which accompanied it around the globe. As venue sizes increased, the band’s sound developed in tandem, songs were deconstructed and reconstructed with thrilling self-assurance, peaking in a month long tour with Foo Fighters and a run of high profile festival appearances at the likes of Glastonbury and Reading and Leeds alongside a headline slot at New York’s prestigious Terminal 5.
Wolf’s Law is an unashamedly intricate record. Lyrically, the record touches politics of both the personal and global type, "The Leopard And The Lung" focusing on Kenyan environmental activist (Wangari Maathai) while "Tendons" is, according to Ritzy, "the closest we have ever got to a love song, albeit a very peculiar, fucking love song." Throughout Wolf’s Law the experience of its diverse recording locations and its influence on the thought process of its writers is tangible.
With initial recording taking place in the band’s home of North Wales followed by recording the bulk of the album in a cabin in Portland, Maine in midwinter with snowstorms and drifts of up to 9 foot blocking any contact with the outside world, the extremes of the natural world were bound to play a part. The recording sessions were an enclosure described by Ritzy as like "being in our recording bubble with no concept of time or day and night. It gave us the solitude to concentrate fully on the album that wouldn’t have been possible elsewhere." So it should come as no surprise that the plight of the natural world in an age of rampant consumerism and consumption should make itself felt.
With further recording sessions in London and mixing in New York with renowned mixer Andy Wallace (Jeff Buckley, Rage Against The Machine, Nirvana) the flip side to the rural isolation of recording was the atmosphere of two of the world’s most built up commercial cities. Throughout the album the band engage lyrically with their sense that we live in a world where greed and materialism are becoming pervasive but no more so than in "Maw Maw Song," a thundering piece of electronic tinged rock that replicates sonically the sense of over consumption that seems to epitomize elements of the modern world. These lyrical concerns tie into the artwork for the album, commissioned from artist Martin Wittfooth, a Canadian whose recurrent themes are the pressures of human progress on the natural world and the loss of environment in the name of progress.
The band’s reconnection with the natural world was strengthened by an increasing interest in Native American mythology and practice, an area which encompassed the art of Carl Ray and the creature legends that populate American Indian stories. Thus the album title Wolf’s Law is both a reference to the wolf which populates Native American mythology and the medical theory that states stress on a certain body part changes and strengthens that part to cope with the stress. As a one shot of the thinking behind the record it couldn’t be closer, both adapting to new realities and finding a spiritual mindset have been part of this record.
The Joy Formidable Wolf's Law Track Listing:
1. This Ladder Is Ours
4. Little Blimp
6. Silent Treatment
7. Maw Maw Song
8. Forest Serenade
9. The Leopard And The Lung
10. The Hurdle
11. The Turnaround