They Came, They Riffed but They Didn’t Conquer
What is the recipe for Joy? On the classic-rock revival band’s latest, Under the Spell of Joy, they offer up their own interpretation: Equal parts Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. Add a couple cups of early 90s Smashing Pumpkins and Soundgarden, then whip it up and serve it cold without any sugary topping.
The band has compiled arrangements that call to mind the thick and heavy guitar riffs, the throbbing bass and spastic drums of the early hard-rock era mixed in with the heady psychedelia of the School of Hendrix. Throughout the album, Joy also call to mind the wave of odes the rockers of the 90s unleashed in their homages to the craft.
What didn’t carry over from that era are memorable hooks. There are flirtations with this. The interplay between guitarist Zach Oakley, drummer Paul Morrone and bassist Justin Hulson bring about the spirit of riffsters like Page and even Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi with their respective bandmates. However, these aren’t songs that are quick to register on repeat listens.
Album opener “Under The Spell” flutters along with a medieval, pipe-driven subtlety found on Zeppelin’s “Stairway” or any of its descendants. It offers up a calm before the storm-of-a-record that awaits the listener, for soon the record will give way to a “Misty Mountain Hop” experience laden with the residue of “Electric Ladyland” and “War Pigs.”
“Evil” is a behemoth blues number that is less Howlin’ Wolf and more like something the bands of English port towns would unleash after getting first-access to all the great blues records coming over from across the pond.
“Driving Me Insane” is all about massive riffage that remains controlled for moments, but then is shaken and stirred and unleashes a blistering array of colorful and mind-numbing guitar solos and all-around bombast. It’s a highlight on a this record.
Throughout the record, Joy plays to their strengths in a lot of ways. They are talented musicians who are adept at tapping into the analog and tube-amp sensibilities of their aural ancestors. However, for all of that talent, when the record ends there is still that concern about what just happened. They came and riffed, but didn’t conquer. That last part is an action that will come about in the future, perhaps, but only if they embrace a bit more of the accoutrements the recipe for Joy really calls for: some stand-out hooks that support the burgeoning brilliance of the rest of the arrangements.