Rival Sons Darkfighter
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Rival Sons Come Out Fighting

I used to have access to Rival Sons. For interviews, for chatting about James Bown and his importance to their sound – we even hung out in a bowling alley once.

That was when they broke out with ‘Head Down’, their 2012 follow-up to that great piece of sassy success, ‘Pressure & Time’.

And then ‘Great Western Valkyrie’ arrived, their zenith perhaps, full of hugely important songs and fun fuzzy forays – it has ‘Electric Man’ on it, for goodness sake.

2014 and onward seemed the time for Riv Sons, the world seemed at their feet and I lost access to them, as I expected and understood. I regained access a few months ago and although I couldn’t make the timings work, it did make me think.

Rival Sons
Credit; RivalSons.com

Because that stupendous follow-up to that 2014 album didn’t come, instead we had ‘Hollow Bones’ 2 years later and people started to whisper that they might have heard that Rival Sons guitar tone, that styling, before.

They did hit the heights again with their last release, ‘Feral Roots’ which pushed the sass with tracks like ‘Sugar On The Bone’ and huge raucous Rock successes like the title track.

So, are Rival Sons against the wall? Can their backs feel the brick? Of course not, but there is a feeling that we should hear something a little new.

This album really provides it.


The cover, a tiger loping into the shot, in a green wash, shows a confidence which is entirely justified. This is both reigned in and ready to pounce; it also has some fantastic openness.

It’s not a Rock album; Darkfighter is more than that. Rival Sons have always had a feeling of big, tinsel-curtained club songs and this album gives us that lovely loucheness.

Doesn’t start like that though. Opener ‘Mirrors’ might have a funky percussive beat, sweet acoustic section, rising Rock and a spitting solo; this has the power of ‘Electric Man’ but can then use their experience to choose not to use it.

Joining it is the diminishing vocal melody of ‘Nobody Wants To Die’ with its intention to race along, glammy banging ‘Bird In The Hand’ and a magisterial, cool Rock groove and massive guitar workout of ‘Guillotine’.

That last mentioned track is the only time Scott Holiday cuts loose on those six strings and although the tone remains fuzzy, the songs surround it and make it feel different, Jay Buchanan’s Blues howl is all there too, but wrangled in a much different way.

Strangely, there’s a little organ in the centre of these songs, and yet these songs sound open, bigger, with a different intention. And in the closer ‘Darkside’, we have an encapsulation of what’s intended, a Rocker loping like a predator on the cover but with jazzy rim shots.

With One Bound……they were free?

Not as such, but although there are only 8 tracks here, these songs don’t wither in the long shadow of expectation, they decide to play a different game. Jay Buchanan has described it as a battle between light and darkness in the songwriting, fighting the dark and bringing the light in; he uses the boxing analogy we also heard in Rival Sons’ ‘Face Of Light’, the combination of being on the ropes and cleaning the ring. That cleaning is important, Rock Injection adds insight around the last album not moving the needle as much, Darkfighter doesn’t try and yet that thing is turning somersaults.

Rock & Blues Muse encapsulates it nicely;

‘Their willingness to sound like no one but themselves and make gutsy choices instantly gets them to the front of the line.’

And as Louder Sound says;

‘It’s not so much the sound of a reinvention as that of a band recalibrated and revitalised.’

One that doesn’t conform.

One that places them in a new area. Well done, Rival Sons, master of their own game.

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