Since their debut in 2009, Long Beach four-piece Rival Sons have been cranking out seventies-influenced rock records at regular intervals. Since Feral Roots in 2019, COVID forced them to take their time on the follow-up – it turned out to be time well spent as they have two albums due for release this year, Darkfighter and Lightbringer (Elektra/Low Country Sound). Darkfighter is the first one to be released and it is a tight, eight-song offering that continues their accomplished rock n’ roll – marrying Free, Led Zeppelin, and Black Keys influences to Dave Cobb’s rich production values.
The opening track is trademark Rival Sons, soothing organs that explode into full-throttled life, with Jay Buchanan’s vocals soaring over a tight melody and Mike Miley’s thunderous drumming. This record doesn’t break new ground but, like Feral Roots, is the perfect distillation of their old-meets-new sound. The full-blooded singles ‘Nobody Wants to Die’ and ‘Bird in the Hand’ are terrific introductions to the album. The former is a taut rocker with a powerful rhythm section and a searing solo, whilst the latter, with its fuzzy, Black Keys-like stomp, is a personal favourite.
‘Rapture’ is the obligatory anthemic ballad, its bluesy shuffle and big chorus veering just on the right side of corny. ‘Guillotine’ is the moody number, with its finely tuned mix of acoustic and electric guitar building to a compelling and climactic end. As ever Dave Cobb behind the mixing desk is their greatest asset, he helps bring the funky riff and minimalist chorus of ‘Bright Light’ to life. Before we close out with the melancholic and atmospheric title track.
This record will not win over the doubters, with Jay’s lyrics still well-intentioned but vague and their sound steeped in the past, but Darkfighter is a compact display of punchy rock n roll and a fine addition to their oeuvre. Bring on Lightbringer.
Buy the album here:
7 / 10