With Wolf’s Law, The Joy Formidable have released what is sure to be a contender for year-end album best of lists. These might be bold words for an album that is only being released in January, but Wolf’s Law improbably fuses together epic rock with gorgeous melodies, swelling choruses, singer Ritzy Bryan’s both pixie-ish and ethereal vocals and all the dramatic sweep and scope of a concept album without imploding under its own weight like most concept albums do.
From the driving rhythms and catchy chords on the first single “The Ladder is Ours” to the orchestration-heavy finale “The Turnaround,” the record is full of rushing energy and adrenaline while being surprisingly diverse in its presentation. The crunchy, distorted riffs and chugging drums on “Cholla” hint at an aggressive undertone but the following lyrics betray more confusion than anything else: “What became of goodness?/Of fairness?/Where are we going?/What are we doing?”
Bryan’s vocals bring a genre-bending dynamic to a number of the tracks, including the blitzkrieg rock of “Bats,” where she whispers, croons, chants, shouts and provides ethereal background vocals. in equal measure to give the track an almost operatic feel. While most of the tracks tend to be heavy and the rock ‘n roll—particularly on the propulsive, bass-driven “Little Blimp” and the slightly cheeky synth rock number “Maw Maw Song”—and could easily be driven by the ego and bombast of a less subtle singer, it is Bryan’s multifaceted presence that helps make these tracks transcend the ordinary head-banging and air-banding sensibilities they inspire.
The Joy Formidable have created a diverse, otherworldly rock record here, and Wolf’s Law has set the bar obscenely high for anyone looking to surpass them.