RIVAL SONS – Feral Roots

Here’s a band that don’t need any introduction. Much have been said about the Rival Sons, from them being geniuses to complete rip-offs, but no matter what you think, it’s hard to overlook the fact that the band have been building a big following throughout the years. Me, I was somewhat obstinate when Rival Sons first came into the spotlight but when I gave in, I really did gave in. Even though Rival Sons have existed since 2009 –  ten years – they feel like a new band to me, a new band that plays old music but in truth, they’re almost veterans by now. Prior to this new record, five albums have been released, albums I truly love and to this day, I haven’t heard one bad track by them. Their last album Hollow Bones (2016) got some critique for being repetitive and no taking the band forward but I beg to differ, I think Rival Sons take steps with each album. While a new Rival Sons album is a highlight for me, it also always comes with lots of high hopes and the negative demon in me always seem to think “is this when the first lowdown comes?”. I really hope not but there’s only one way to find out.

Opening track and first single “Do Your Worst” kicks off the album in a fierce and quite aggressive way with a thunderous rhythm, rough and distorted guitars and a kicking groove that will overturn any arena or theatre out there. The song’s chorus is immediately addictive and catches on like super-glue. But we’re not talking mainstream radio flirting here, this is a gritty tune but also catchy enough to become a hit. The album couldn’t have opened in a better way. “Sugar To The Bone” has a sleazy title – I don’t really know what it means but it sure sounds dirty – and so do the music, it’s dirty. But it’s also ballsy and in-your-face and quite straight-forward. The “oh-oh-oh” refrain takes the sons on a different route that makes me think of 80’s Hard Rock albeit with an early 70’s outlook all over. It’s a very direct rocker and the effective chorus sticks right off the bat. Brilliant!

“Back In The Woods” is heavy, tough and rowdy and the Led Zeppelin influences here are impossible to ignore. That said, those influences never goes Greta Van Fleet on us here. The tune is a tough kicker with a huge live-feel and a very effective and memorable refrain that never goes mainstream Pop for one second. A real killer. “Look Away” starts with an acoustic guitar intro that brings early Zeppelin to mind. It’s a quite dramatic piece, earthy and a bit spacey but with a robust groove and some very direct melodies. It’s big in sound and structure but also quite bombastic and forceful. Very good. The title-track starts with a late 60’s vibe, a bit laid-back and somewhat folky, kind of like 70’s Heart meets Led Zeppelin. It’s an atmospheric track and a bit smooth but with striking melodies and as a whole, a very memorable and very good song.

The slow “Too Bad” almost goes into ballad territory but it also holds a raunchy groove and bounces with a riff-happy Scott Holiday letting his inner Tony Iommi out. It’s a quite stripped and earthy tune but it also full of hooks, majestic backing vocals and catchiness. It’s a rough piece but at the same time uplifting – very good. “Stood By Me” is an upbeat pop-rocker with a clear Rolling Stones influence and a little bit of Soul. It’s a Classic Rock groover with a strong late 60’s vibe and even a tiny bit of 80’s Rock thrown in. The big, female backing vocals lifts the tune as the dynamics change. A very good and memorable tune. The mid-paced “Imperial Joy” brings on some more Classic Rock groove with some chunky, clean guitars in the refrain. The atmospheric backing vocals, the “ooooh”‘s, takes the chorus up to another level and works splendidly. It’s not very direct, more of a grower. A good tune.

“All Directions” is a slow, soft-ish, dreamy and quite comfy late 60’s influenced piece with a gorgeous vocal melody signed Jay Buchanan. It’s a quite stripped, acoustic guitar based tune to begin with but when the strings comes in it grows bigger to finally explode when the choir comes in and makes the tune huge. What an awesome song. “End Of Forever” starts out a bit laid-back with a somewhat monotone yet groovy drum-beat and a soothing main melody but when the chorus enters, the tune heavies up loads and attacks with aggression in a fierce way without giving in on the melodies – very good. Closing track “Shooting Stars” might just be the best song they have ever written. Acoustically based with bouncy rhythm and an amazing choir that goes totally gospel on us, the tune is nothing but contagious and addictive. It’s huge and fills the room immediately but it’s also stripped and rootsy. The catchiness is intense but it’s not radio-friendly by any means. It’s fucking awesome, pardon the expression.

I instantly liked this record but I also thought it wasn’t as great as their previous records at first. That has changed. The album has grown on me majorly with each listen and now I just love the record. Rival Sons’ style is still intact but on this album they have moved themselves out of their comfort zone in some places, like bringing in big gospel-influenced choir, more hook-laden refrains and influences beyond the 70’s. The thing is, this album must be their most accessible record yet when it comes to melodies and catchy refrains. That said, it’s hardly American Arena Rock we’re talking here so it never gets very radio-friendly or sugary. Quite the opposite, it’s still a heavy and raunchy record, very authentic, dynamic and rootsy – and it’s the 70’s that is Rival Sons’ major influence. Could this even be their finest effort yet? Well, if it keeps growing like it have done lately, that just might be my opinion in the near future.

9/10

More Rival Sons reviews:

Head Down
Great Western Valkyrie
Hollow Bones

Tracklist:

1. Do Your Worst
2. Sugar On The Bone
3. Back In The Woods
4. Look Away
5. Feral Roots
6. Too Bad
7. Stood By Me
8. Imperial Joy
9. All Directions
10. End Of Forever
11. Shooting Stars