RIVAL SONS – Great Western Valkyrie

Great Western ValkyrieTo many people who knows me, I can be a somewhat stubborn and obstinate character when it comes to music at times, highly opinionated and a preference for vomiting those opinions at all times and costs. Well, I would be lying if I said that they were lying, but hey, that’s just my personality, I guess – or at least a trait of mine. But sometimes, I’m too damn stubborn and obstinate for my own damn self. Like when it comes to Rival Sons. I remember when I first heard of them a few years back. The word got around that they were something real special and more and more people were praising them. After they released their third album, Head Down in 2012 and toured that album, everybody and their mother seemed to love Rival Sons. Now, I had been resistant from day one about the band, for reasons even I don’t know, but when they exploded like they did I couldn’t take the hype and like I small child, I completely refused to even give them a shot. But after a while I had to give in and at least try to listen to them after many of my friends had put a goad in by being very consistent and convincing while persuading me. Of course, there was nothing else for me to do but to surrender because to deny the fact that this lot is anything but brilliant is preposterous. Nothing else to do then than to purchase their two major label albums, Head Down and Pressure And Time (2011), both equally good, in my opinion. In fact, it was only recently I found out that the Sons had released an independent album back in 2009 called Before The Fire. Guess I need to check that one out as well. With two albums out that everybody seems to love, there’s some pressure when it comes to record the oh so important third one because if the band loses momentum on this one, it could all be over really fast. If it was said pressure that led bass player Robin Everhart to jump the ship and force singer Jay Buchanan, guitarist Scott Holiday and drummer Mike Miley to find a replacement – which they did in David Beste – is really anyone’s guess.

What hasn’t changed, though, is their producer of choice, Dave Cobb, which is understandable. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it, the saying goes, but on the other hand it is a bit startling as Rival Sons just don’t come across as a predictable gang that does things by the book. Still, Cobb seems to have become something like the fifth member of the band and the guy just seems to know his shit, just listen to the brilliant California Breed (Glenn Hughes, Jason Bonham, Andrew Watt) record he just made. After one listen to this album, it’s pretty obvious that the band and Cobb really are a brilliant team. Opening song “Electric Man” is a bit different to what we’re used to. It has a big The Doors influence, which isn’t that surprising when it comes to Rival Sons, but on here it mixes with a vibe that is very punky and the subsequent “Good Luck” is equally brilliant, also with the big The Doors thing, but on that song it comes with a hard rock sound, very much Rival Sons sounding. The Led Zeppelin influence in the majestic “Secrets” is extremely palpable and astute, but it never goes into clone territory. “Play The Fool” shows us a similarity to The Rolling Stones of the 1960’s, but with a much harder approach and “Good Things” also comes from the 60’s as it levitates around the listener like a hippie in Mary Jane-land. “Open My Eyes” brings out a more commercial touch than we’re used to and the song is surprisingly catchy and almost radio friendly, but the Sons sounds prosperous and it feels really natural, totally without any hit agendas at all. They bring out The Doors again – this could have been a lost Waiting For The Sun outtake – in “Rich And The Poor”, but this time as a brilliant ballad. Buchanan smirks “She said: I’m gonna show you how babies are made…” over a Ray Manzerk-ish organ. “Belle Star” is slow and dark, very hippie-like, but also very heavy and “Where I’ve Been” is a ballad that sounds like a 60’s ballad. Good, sure, but nothing special. That leaves us with only “Destination On Course” and that one is my favourite track on this album. It’s a long, trippy rock tune that could have come off some musical like “Hair” or something like that. It’s not really that easy accessible, but somehow it really sticks after first listen.

If you have read this far, you might have guessed that I think this album is a total killer. Rival Sons have created a sound that is – even though you can draw clear parallels to both eras and certain artists – their own and believe you me, it is an art form in itself to be able to maintain your identity while wearing your influences so visible and musically on your sleeves. Quite startling, if you ask me. There is a plethora of retro bands out there that wants to take us back to the 70’s and 60’s, but with Rival Sons everything feels so fresh, alive and honest. The band also has a cocksure look at the way how things shall be done and how their music shall sound and they don’t back down an inch from that. This album might just be their best effort to date and in a time where all the huge dinosaur bands are singing on their last verse, it’s hopefully bands like Rival Sons that will keep the coveted legacy of arena / stadium playing rock bands alive. It’s time for Rival Sons to climb up to serie A now and play with the big boys – God knows they deserve it. Wake up world, it’s Rival Sons time now. Let’s go make them huge. Who’s with me?

Jon Wilmenius (9/10)

Tracklist:

1. Electric Man
2. Good Luck
3. Secret
4. Play The fool
5. Good Things
6. Open My Eyes
7. Rich and the Poor
8. Belle Starr
9. Where I’ve Been
10. Destination On Course

6 comments on “RIVAL SONS – Great Western Valkyrie

  1. Rival Sons played my hometown last Saturday night ! They headlined the second night of a three day Bluesfest here in Thunder Bay. There were about 5,000 or so at the show and I betcha 4,500 never heard of em but they put on a fantastic performance and many were converted that night as they went down very well by my estimation!
    This album is currently my fav album of 2014 so far!
    Catch em live…..
    Great review Jon!

    • Awesome. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that those 4,500 realised what a bad-ass band they are and bought the record later on.
      Hopefully they will visit Sweden soon as well so I get the chance to catch them in concert.

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