Rock revivalists revive rock once again
Originally hailing from Long Beach, California, Rival Sons churn out energetic slices of raw and bluesy rock n’ roll, similar to Led Zeppelin and miles better than Greta Van Fleet. The first semblances of the band took place all the way back in 2006 when guitarist Scott Holiday bumped into then solo artist Jay Buchanan on MySpace. Although Buchanan was skeptical that the two would be a good partnership, their 2009 self-released debut Before The Fire garnered such a strong reaction that he chose to commit to the new project full time. Nothing but positive feedback followed the band as they rose, whether it be in the form of them opening for Evanescence in 2011 by personal request of Amy Lee herself or being the sole opening act on Black Sabbath’s farewell tour in 2017. Now in 2019, having just signed a brand new label deal, Rival Sons has just put out their newest offering, Feral Roots.
When looking at the charts, the listener quickly discovers that foot-stomping lead single “Do Your Worst” is the band’s first charting single since 2012. The group has been unable to make serious headwind in its home country–its highest position is 115, and this one checks in at 139–but they’ve amassed a surprisingly strong European base. In Britain, the album debuted at 12, in Germany it hit eight, and strangely enough in Norway and Sweden Rival Sons have a top five record.
The musicians themselves are all very talented; Buchanan is a truly remarkable vocalist with endless grit and an expressive range. Holiday’s guitar playing is sinful and ballsy, while drummer Mike Miley is a professional who has played with Veruca Salt and the Carson Daly house band. Those looking for big, guitar-driven rock anthems will not be disappointed with this record.
Unfortunately, the songs aren’t as memorable as they could be. There aren’t a lot of hooks on this album, and when they appear, they’re gone far too quickly. Fun moments include the opening Van Halen drum fills of “Back In The Woods,” the nasty shredding of “Too Bad” and the biggest positive surprise, closer “Shooting Star.” The latter comes with heaping portions of acoustic guitars, gospel choirs and handclaps.
Overall, it’s a solid album, but Rival Sons have done better. Don’t skip Feral Roots on that account, though, just temper expectations.