Released: 2004, Metal Blade
Rival are living proof that what could potentially be a very average band can turn into a great band on the strength of the song. Rival have a bit of a Cinderella story, slogging it out unsuccessfully as a bar band in the US for a decade then getting discovered in Europe, and eventually signed to Metal Blade and exposed to a larger audience. I’d never heard of them either.
So a band that by all accounts Rival never should have made, gets that one shot at glory, grabs the golden ring and proves they have what it takes, and I for one am delighted. I can see why the band struggled for years… a pretty dull name, no specific image to speak of, the song titles on this disc are dull and derivative, adequate cover art and standard if uninspired presentation.
What grabs me about this collection of nine songs is the music first and foremost. Many bands dazzle with the extras and don’t deliver when it comes to the song (see my review of the Cans CD) and bands like Rival are just the opposite. They hammer out the purest metal, catchy as hell songs, a fresh and innovative delivery with a good sense of new and old. Amazing drum-work propel this juggernaut along and add a great dynamic to the music. The last track is a perfect example. The song is called ‘Hell Train’. It’s built (musically) to sound like a train. This idea is not new and has been done many, many times before (Metal Church, Powersurge etc) but Rival do it so well it instantly jumped into the top position of my favorite ‘Songs That Sound a Train’ category. Seriously. Not a new idea but executed with power and precision.
Every song is like that, pure metal delivered convincingly and passionately. Rival put the POW!! in Power Metal. No extras like keyboards, no female vocals, no flutes, no choirs; just drums, bass two guitars, screaming vocals and it’s head down and driving for the horizon. They sound new and frsh but ‘safe’ and familiar. They don‘t really sound like anyone I can put my finger on, maybe Paragon or Messiah’s Kiss a bit but less European. If the band keep this up Rival may have no rival at all.