Released: 2012, Earache Records
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
The amount of press and accolades surrounding Rival Sons makes it hard to believe that they’ve only been around for the last four years. Hailing from California, this four-piece subscribe to the ‘old ways’ in terms of honest, groovy, and just a tad smug blues-infused hard rock. I’m not sure about the ‘danger’ part of the band’s manifesto though - the most dangerous thing I associate Rival Sons is the signing of the band to Earache Records in 2010, a label which traditionally deals in ear-splitting heavy metal – which I guess is why their name sounds like a disclaimer. It’s not exactly setting your balls alight every night whilst your band members crawl through your legs playing their instruments with their teeth.
This is not to say that I found Head Down boring, it’s just that as vintage rock-revivalists Rival Sons don’t shake me down, but they do warm my heart. The reason I feel so mellow is the classic 60s/70s rock sound that drifts through the album like psychedelic smoke. These influences aren’t exactly hidden with the sounds of Led Zeppelin, The Doors, and Free rising to the top of the mix.
As I alluded before, the way people talk about them you think they’d managed to resurrect Hendrix and he was writing all their music backstage, but to join the list of those giving Rival Sons their dues they do a good job of tapping into what was so charismatic about many of the bands of those eras.
Cases in point are the Robert Plant-esque vocals of Jay Buchanan on kick-your-heels-up ‘You Want To’, the belt-out ‘Keep On Swinging’ and more measured slow-burner ‘Jordan’, which puts a more fragile edge on Jay’s voice.
Lyrically Rival Sons sound old well before their years – tracks like ‘Run From Revelation’, which sounds torn from an old timer’s song book and walks with a confident strut, and big-boogie ‘All The Way’, are internally reflective, and perhaps because of this are two of the most memorable songs on Head Down. Although it could also be something to do with the musical performances such as the slick slide guitars and backroom jam feel, but if we’re talking good musicianship we could hold all of Head Down up as an example.
It doesn’t always come off for Rival Sons though with the second half of the album in particular feeling a little lacklustre to me as in middle-of-the-road ‘The Heist’ and the nice-but-skippable acoustic instrumental ‘Nava’. My biggest petty criticism lies with the album name though, for one Rival Sons can certainly hold their heads high on the strength of Head Down, and by the same merit will struggle to keep their heads down with its glow above them. Unless they’re just shielding their eyes from it obviously.
Review by Kirsty Birkett-Stubbs