Rival Sons – Darkfighter (Album Review)

Independent of the modern Rock-n-Roll scene, or lack thereof one, Rival Sons have cleared their own path through the years. A band of musicians who have learned a thing or two from prior projects, established 17 years as Rival Sons, Jay Buchanan (lead vocals), Scott Holiday (guitar), Dave Beste (bass guitar) and Michael Miley (drums), have simply found the right fit. All from different walks of life, together as Rival Sons they unify for a sound that exploits the roots of Rock-n-Roll in the most glorious way. Not Alternative, nor something else, they are simply a modern rebirth of Rock-n-Roll with a foundation in Blues, R&B, and Soul.

A sound that some might say was a derivative of the past when they first emerged in 2009 with their debut album Before the Fire, quickly the trajectory morphed into a unique style signature to Rival Sons. A result of various aspects, from the songwriting to the steadfast production of Dave Cobb, in 2023 Rival Sons look to top themselves yet again.

A year in which they prepared to release two studio albums within five months of each other, the first appeared back on back on June 2nd. Entitled Darkfighter, the latest record is the band’s seventh overall, and second under Cobb’s imprint label Low Country Sound, which is also a part of the Atlantic Records family. Complete with eight carefully crafted songs, unlike prior material, the guys in Rival Sons had more time on their side when building these tunes. It is not to say any of their prior material was ever rushed, but consider this, most records are recorded within a month period, and with the pandemic sucking up much of the past few years, they were allotted ample time to construct and deconstruct these songs.

Something that can be a blessing and a curse, because sometimes we tweak things a bit too much, in the case of Darkfighter nothing is over-produced nor over-thought. Instead, you get a very well-executed group of songs that fit snugly in each of their own respective slots. Not overly powerful or in your face just for the sake of being such, the mood builds and the band pops you in the nose when the time is right with irresistible grooves – this is the case with opener “Mirrors,” “Nobody Want to Die,” as well as “Guillotine.” And then there are more mellow grooves and melodic interludes on cuts that include “Bright Light,” “Rapture,” “Horses Breath,” and closer “Darkside” which takes you on a fantastical roller coaster of emotions.

In all, this album digs deep with moody atmospheres that are complimented by thought-provoking lyrics that invite you to reflect on life, death, and the spaces in-between. Amplified by Buchanan’s inspired Gospel-like vocal approach, Darkfighter is a bold moment in the story of Rival Sons. To be followed by Lightbringer come October, one has to wonder what the companion record will add to the narrative. Until then, sit back and ground yourself on the earth with Darkfighter, because Cryptic Rock gives this album 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Rival Sons – Darkfighter / Low Country Sound Atlantic Records (2023)

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