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Album Review : Rival Sons – Darkfighter

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Review by Ritchie Birnie for MPM

So 2023s first of two albums from Rival Sons has dropped and this is a monster and a brilliant follow up to the amazing Feral Roots.

At album number seven a band is either cutting a path or struggling to stay relevant and Darkfighter is definitely nowhere near the latter. Rival Sons for me are still far too underrated and as a live act they are unstoppable so hopefully Darkfighter breaks them to a new level and the follow up Lightbringer burts them to superior heights.

The album opens with a church feel on the intro of “Mirrors” as the organ grabs your attention before that gritty, fuzzy rival Sons vibe kicks in and this sets the bar for the whole album. It fleets from high tempo to laid back trippy 70s and this will be stunning live.

“Nobody Wants to Die” has been with us since last year as it was the first single and most of you will remember the awesome video which choreographs perfectly to this high octane number. The band wanted us all to escape from the dreaded C word and put the global lockdowns into the rear view mirror and focus on escapism which this video and song do perfectly.

This and follow up album are all about light and shade, differences that were being forced on us by others and “Bird in the Hand” ties this all together in the Rival Sons 70s showcase. Lyrically you can feel the oppression and difficulties we all went through during that period.

The guitar intro on “Bright Light” hark back to a 60s soundtrack and I have never heard Jay Buchanan sound better. Musically this could be a Tarantino favourite and there is a huge dose of The Beatles in there.

“Rapture” really has the feel of the dark side of these two albums. The slow burning, soulful piece cries out in pain, it has a desperation to it that is at the bottom of well of emotion but all the while it is looking upwards at the light and how to get there. The lyrics are striving to break out of a downward spiral and the music just layers that feeling.

“Guillotine” has Jay screaming for attention and Scott Holiday demanding recognition of his fuzzy brilliance. The breakdown is simple, brilliant and very thought provoking. Once you come out of that there is a ferocity of indecision and doubt but this builds to one of the best tracks on the album with a bit of a Shooting Stars feel.

With a very unusual name “Horses Breath” builds up interest through a vivid musical piece that stretches the band to new heights. This song is a culmination of a journey this group of Californians have been on for almost two decades. The song writing has been building strongly over those years with very few hiccups and they have used all that knowledge to get to an album and a track like this through hard work and talent.

This culminates in a beast of a track and a very, very powerful song that Michael Miley drives like a piledriver. I loved this one with all my heart.

For the final track “Darkside” we get the fuzzy guts of Rival Sons before we hear Jay drop his tone and I urge everyone to listen to his almost spoken piece via earphones to hear how stunning this is. What a finish to the album with a monster of a song with guts, balls and a whole heap of despair.

This feels like every hope has flown away and only realisation is left. It leaves you thinking about your own life and where you are, how you treat your loved ones and how low a soul can go and how fleeting hope can be if you let it.

Darkfighter is a beautiful if not disturbed release but this instantly goes to the top of the Rival Sons catalouge.

An album that truly does need a light side to leave you feeling complete as there is a musical and lyrical gloom hanging over this one even though it is a work of art. I say a work of art as only that could affect your mood and have your mind ticking like reading just one page of a Nietzsche book.

Tracklist:

Mirrors
Nobody Wants To Die
Bird In The Hand
Bright Light
Rapture
Guillotine
Horses Breath
Darkside

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