Released: 2004, Metal Blade
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Somehow, in the last 14 years, Chicago’s Rival had more than their share of bad luck. After releasing a self-financed EP in 1991, a string of headaches and misfortune held up their first full-length, MODERN WORLD, until a release in 2000. Fed up with the business, Rival was ready to pack it in, but a German magazine began promoting their demos and soon they found underground success in Europe playing live shows and most notably, the Bang Your Head Festival in 2002. Metal Blade wisely snatched them up and has released their debut CD, STATE OF MIND. American metalheads can rejoice in knowing that music like this still exists on this side of the ocean. While a few bands have kept the flag of classic heavy metal flying high on North American shores (Iced Earth), we have bastardized heavy music to the point of having endless Korn clones in the name of something heavy. Rival are here to kick the collective asses of nu-metal and bring back powerful riffs, six-string solos and competent songwriting.
The guitars are the real showstopper here. Chuck McNulty and Neven Trivic trade riffs and bang off solos with such masterful precision that they stick in your head. “Extreme Aggression” is the best example of this, as an excellent solo is based around chunky riffs. The battering drums on this track from Gary Olson are also worth noting. Jack Johnson pulls double-duty on vocals and bass and while his voice never really goes high or low, he does hit the mid-range very well. His four-string talents on “Insane” and “Lord of the Knight” are right on track with the meaty bass lines of a Manowar record. The speedy gallop of “Hell Train” takes the best elements of classic European power metal and melds them with a modern crunch.
It amazes me that talented bands like Rival are faced with roadblock after roadblock and have to wade through shit, while hacks and commercial clones seemingly walk into big contracts, are touted as the “next big thing” and then disappear after egos implode the band. This happens far too often in North America and bands like Rival should be welcomed with open arms because I’m damn sure there are more out there waiting to get their big break. STATE OF MIND is a wicked slab of metal that won’t be leaving my player for a while.
KILLER KUTS: “State of Mind,” “Extreme Aggression,” “Insane,” “Brink,” “Lord of the Knight”