Rival Sons – Feral Roots
Formed in Long Beach, California back in 2009, Rival Sons are in my opinion one of the best bands currently playing classic bluesy hard rock. I’ve seen them live three times, first at Sweden Rock Festival in 2012 and then in Bergen, Norway in 2015 and 2018. An excellent live act! This is something they’ve also proved on tours with the likes of AC/DC, Alice Cooper, Judas Priest, Queensrÿche, Kiss, Sammy Hagar, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath.
Those who managed to get a hold of the self-released 2009 debut album “Before the Fire” on vinyl are sitting on a treasure trove today, according to current prices listed at Discogs. Sadly, I didn’t personally hear of Rival Sons until their self-titled EP was given away for free with issue #158 of Classic Rock Magazine back in 2011. Great stuff, I thought, and I soon puchased the major label debut “Pressure & Time” on vinyl when it was issued in a Storm Thorgerson cover by Earache the same year. I did the same when “Head Down” came out the following year but I only gave “Great Western Valkyrie” (2014) a few listens and didn’t even get around to hearing 2016’s “Hollow Bones” until now. It’s all good stuff, though. Gotta Catch ‘Em All!
Anyways, “Feral Roots” is Rival Sons’ 6th full-lenght and their first album to be released by Atlantic Records. The line-up is the same as it has been since 2013 when Dave Beste replaced Robin Everhart on bass. The creative core of vocalist extraordinaire Jay Buchanan (who released solo album “Violence” in 1999, 2003’s “All Understood” as Buchanan and the EP “True Love” in 2006), guitarist Scott Holiday (formerly of Human Lab, whose sole album remains unreleased) and drummer Mike Miley (who played with Holiday on their sole EP as Black Summer Crush, 2007) remains the same since they formed the band.
Opening track “Do Your Worst” is a heavy rocker destined for live crowds singing along to the chorus of “Take my body, take my body and do your worst“. “Sugar on the Bone” is catchy rocker, backed up by a modern rough and ready guitar sound that brings The Black Keys and The White Stripes to mind. Hit you like thunder – you got that hold on me! True that. “We’re far from the city and this land is rough“, screams Buchanan in “Back In The Woods”, another groovy rocker in the Zeppelin mould that’s bound to become a live staple.
“Look Away” starts out as a slower track with oriental vibes, not unlike something out of the acoustic Jimmy Page song book. It eventually turns into another heavy rocker topped by Jay at the top of his vocal powers. I can hear you calling me, recognize your voice. Indeed! It seems to perhaps tackle the issue of “fake news” and vaccine deniers with lines such as “You watch the incision on your very own children on your television. In your own reflection, you deny the protection of your own infection.” and “You watch the distribution of a mass confusion spread by the institution. Sell your inclusion of you and your own illusion, instead of thinking you’re the solution.”
The title track “Feral Roots” is another Zeppelinesque rocker bound for live greatness while “Too Bad” is an even heavier blues rocker which gives Buchanan the chance to join the ranks of Coverdale and Plant when it comes to top-notch cock-rock delivery. “Stood By Me” has more of a southern rock vibe with backing vocals and a chorus of “Now I’m calling you out ’cause I got to say thank you“. The 1979 “Degüello” hit “I Thank You” comes to mind and ZZ Top are perhaps a band that Rival Sons could also give their dues.
The direction is maintained on “Imperial Joy” before the ballad “All Directions” brings some welcome variation to the album. “Teach me what I don’t understand”, sings Buchanan, and if I’m to criticize this record for something it’s perhaps that they stick a bit too close to a formula that they fully comprehend. Taking a few more chances in terms of style could pay off.
“The End Of Forever” is another heavy rocker but with a slightly more modern twist. I like it! A gospel choir and hand claps feature on “Shooting Stars”, where Buchanan states that his “love is stronger than your hate will ever be“. I couldn’t have said it better myself and this is probably the best track on the entire album. Love is all you need, as The Beatles used to sing. Love and good rocking music, I’d say. Such as that by the Rival Sons!
I’ve recently reviewed the full-lenght debut by Greta Van Fleet and the new re-recordings by Thunder here at Stargazed Magazine. While I do enjoy the latter and find the former competent in their mimicking of Led Zeppelin and early Rush, I find that neither of those records can quite stand their ground next to the mighty Rival Sons. This is the real deal for us lovers of classic rock!
Rival Sons will start their European tour at the end of January, concluding in Scandinavia in early March (Münchenbryggeriet in Stockholm, Sweden, on March 4th) before touring the US. Tour dates and ticket information can be found at rivalsons.com.
Artist: Rival Sons
Title: Feral Roots
Label: Atlantic Records/Low Country Sound (an imprint of Elektra Records, Warner Music Group)
Date of release: 2019-01-25
Stand out track: Shooting Stars