Ten years ago, The Joy Formidable released their aptly titled debut LP, The Big Roar. In the decade since, the trio have gone from indie darlings to an underappreciated gem. Their sound has evolved from that unmistakable roar to incorporating acoustic tracks and more diverse sounds. Their openness to expand was a double-edged sword, alienating fans who loved their early sound while also building a dedicated fanbase who crave the catharsis that Ritzy Bryan, Rhydian Dafydd and Matt Thomas create. The band have also undergone quite a change of scenery over the last couple of years, relocating to London to Utah and back to their native Wales.
It seemed for a bit that the roar had subsided, but Into The Blue features the immense sound that defined their early days. The title track sets the album’s tone with with an incredible energy and Bryan’s vocals sounding strong as ever. Tracks like “Chimes” and “Sevier” maintain the pace with no indication of slowing down, thanks to the intense percussion especially on “Sevier”.
The band continue the full-throttle momentum on the next three tracks. “Interval” has more killer riffs and exceptional drumming while “Farrago” has features heavy power chords that wouldn’t feel out of place on a metal record. “Gotta Feed My Dog” is one of the record’s hardest hitting songs. Bryan’s whispered vocal delivery here contrasts with some of the album’s best guitar moments for spectacular results.
Listeners almost need a break when “Somewhere New” begins. On this acoustic track, Dafydd takes over lead vocal duties. It’s an impressive performance for someone who rarely steps into the spotlight. The track’s quiet moments offer a welcome breather within the storm that is Into The Blue.
The heavy riffs return on “Bring It to the Front”, which also features lush synths for contrast. “Back To Nothing” is one of the band’s finest songs. It exemplifies everything fans have loved from the start, including moments of catharsis, massive sonic density, and empowering lyrics:
“It’s taken all this time to begin
I don’t want you to save me now
Let this in
There’s no meeting in the middle now
I won’t go back to nothing”
The final two tracks bring perfect closure. “Only Once” is another banger propelled by chugging, distorted bass underneath. The song’s final moments are some of Into The Blue’s most intense. “Left Too Soon” captures the band at their present best. Starting with acoustic guitar, its gorgeous intro builds with a crescendo that may catch listeners off-guard but will certainly not disappoint. A screaming guitar solo and relentless drumming bring the record to its stunning close.
Into The Blue isn’t a comeback album, though it feels like one. The Joy Formidable have released consistently great albums, yet this one feels like a triumphant return to their roots. Here they embrace their original identity. The roar and the energy are there, sounding more polished and mature. This LP showcases why The Joy Formidable are one of modern music’s most powerful bands.
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