Hard Rock Rival Sons
Review @ hack
16 August 2016
...very much like soul and the most bluesy performances...
Rival Sons is a relatively young retro hard rock band, who brings us back to the classic textures of the early seventies. Critics often compare their work to the late great Led Zeppelin. But I haven't noticed much resemblance to that band. The vocals don't come anywhere close to the multi octave range of a young Robert Plant. And the guitar music doesn't sound nearly as articulate as the skill of Jimmy Page, in his Zeppelin era. Their twenty twelve album, Head Down, was slow going with a sound like Foghat meets Cream. Their twenty fourteen album, The Great Western Valkyrie, sounded a bit more energizedlike Coverdale Page crossed with The Black Crowes. The digipack CD from my record store didn't come with a booklet. But it did have a loose card with the band member's initials on it. I would rather have more information about the band and the lyrics conveniently printed out.
Vocalist Jay Buchanan started out in a self named band called Buchanan, in nineteen ninety nine. His band specialized in blues rock and was attracting some attention in the Los Angeles nightclub circuits. A few years later, he was invited by guitarist Scott holiday to help form Rival Sons. He sings as an emotionally charged baritone and digs down deep for heartfelt intensity. His personality is very serious and devoid of any humor or immature antics. He's a talented vocalist for what he does. Guitarist Scott Holiday is a founding member of this band. He was in a couple of bands and involved with a couple of projects during the early two thousands. His specialties include rock 'n' roll, classic rock and blues rock. He was selected as guitarist of the year by Guitar Planet Magazine in twenty fourteen. Usually he doesn't play many high notes and mostly goes with mid range melodies. He can play it hard at a medium tempo and rarely anything flashy. Sometimes he finds a nifty groove, but often undertakes some lackluster blues rock.
The album kicks off with Hollow Bones pt. 1, showing bold and majestic hard rock riffs, accompanied by tightly wound bass power chords. It's an ornamental succession of notes, with just the right groove to open one of their albums. This arrangement is complemented by an aggressive mix of drum beat tones. The lyrics are expressed with an intense sensation; "this one is gonna help you suffer, this one gonna help you bleed!" This rhythm continues on about the same through the song. But then there is a short and awkward guitar solo towards the end. The sound quality is lower than the usual standard and under produced. Which lends a similarity with some early seventies hard rock acts.
Bass player Dave Beste became a Rival Son in twenty thirteen and debuted on their last album, The Great Western Valkyrie. It was probably an upgrade judging by the sound comparison to the previous album, Head Down. But his influences seem to be from the classic rhythm and blues genre. He hits the notes hard and powerfully, but stays within the mid range level of tones. Sometimes it's hard to discern the difference between the two stringed instruments, because it blends in so well. Drummer Michael Miley has been active in the Los Angeles music scene since two thousand four and is a co-founder of this band. He has the skills of a good jazz drummer and is influenced by the performances of the late John Bonham. The drum beats are usually steady and hard, while mixing in some vigorous shuffle patterns. But sometimes he maintains a subtle profile during the softer textures.
The seventh track,Black Coffee, is a cover song of a nineteen seventy two rhythm and blues song, which was written by Ike and Tina Turner. But Humble Pie did a bluesy rendition of the song in seventy three, which seems to be the inspiration for what the Rival Sons have done here. It starts with an upbeat intro reminiscent to ZZ Top and continues with simple blues styled instrumentation. The vocals are sung slowly with a lot of painstaking exertion, exhibiting a lot of heart and soul. "Black coffee, fully ground and freshly packed. Hot black coffee, mmm..., that's where it's at." The chorus chimes in with the force of a church choir. The guitar gently strums with the stereotypical distortion.
The Rival Sons present a very mature and serious disposition. As opposed to many American hard rock bands who convey more of an adolescent mentality. The lyrics seem to carry a theme about the hardships of adult life, which probably mirrors the motifs of classic blues music from the sixties. Some of the lyrics on Hollow Bones are very much like soul and with the most bluesy performances that I've heard from the Rival Sons so far. Their style seems to evolve so that each album takes on a different character. Hollow Bones sounds as dry and serious, as early Aerosmith with textures like early Bad Company. It rocks out better than their last two releases, but still has a few dull songs. The band could be a lot better, if they would sharpen up their intensity.