Rival Sons, Great Western Valkyrie, Earache Records

Rival Sons


Few acts are as prolific as SoCal rock outfit Rival Sons.  Since hitting the scene in 2009, these Long Beach lads have recorded and released 4 full length albums (Before the Fire, Pressure & Time, Head Down and Great Western Valkyrie  [released in June of 2014] and an eponymous EP), not to mention their songs have been used in television and most notably (and that makes me feel a bit dirty to say) their breakthrough single “Pressure & Time” found itself showered in homage from eventual winner (spoiler alert?) Caleb.   With all of that being said, Great Western Valkyrie (GWY) should be the album that garners the band the attention it well deserves.

I can’t speak for the masses for I for one have been experiencing a rather bad case of Fiddle Fatigue, my hands are swollen from all the hand claps, and my whistler needs whetting.  It’s by in no means my way of saying anything to disparage the recent glut of indie folk rock that has been floating over the airwaves, but it is certainly time to let rock music sharpen its teeth and bite into something far meatier than folk “rock”.  Rival Sons might as well have ridden in on their Delorean to save a waning Rock N Roll scene.  Acts such as Jack White, Neil Young, Jake Bugg, The Arctic Monkeys, Young the Giant and Monster Truck have all tried to inject a vigor into the scene, but it is still at the mercy of the endless disposable clone army that is being churned out over at Disney, and the vapid pop scene which could care less about longevity.

Even with the success the band had with the 2011 single “Pressure & Time”, the band continued to hone their craft in the studio all the while touring and earning the praises of some rather credible folks by the names of Sammy Hagar and Jimmy Page.  It’s that second name which should be considered high praise, as the band has managed to create something of a Frankenstein’s monster by finding a way to fuse the sounds of Led Zeppelin (see “Good Luck”), The Doors (check “Rich and the Poor” and try to argue) and The Who (“Belle Star”) into an entity which sounds like a sun drenched throwback to the sex drugs and rock n roll era with one foot firmly planted in the present and looking forward.

From the opening salvo of “Electric Man”, GWY grabs you by the short hairs and refuses to let go until you’re sweaty and spent.  The album pulses with an intensity that has been sorely missing from modern rock in recent years, but as potent as those early tracks are, the true magic occurs on the final two tracks (“Where I’ve Been” and “Destination on Course”) where it all comes together on a fantastic pair of blues rock which simmer with a quiet intensity which bubbles along and begs for the crowd to hoist their lighters to the sky in unison (iphone lighthouses need not apply).   This is an album which has been stuck in my ears for the past week and is easily one of my personal favorites of 2014 thus far.  If you’re a fan of vintage rock n’ roll which isn’t afraid to pay homage to its sleeve of influences, by all means check out Great Western Valkyrie.

As something of a footnote, GWY is no fluke.  Each of the four albums is a direct progression from the previous record, while there are not necessarily any sharp deviations, you can hear the band developing their vintage blues rock sound.  While I don’t think their current fecundity is necessarily a pace at which most bands can work, I certainly hope Rival Sons can continue to maintain their current creative fervor as it is currently paying dividends.       –Trevor Savory


About the author


A proud and over-caffeinated husband, father, runner and writer. I've written for the local weekly The Coast for over a decade and have since taken to creating and writing for HAFILAX for even longer. I hope you enjoy the musings of a guy who has loved music for the better part of 4 decades, and has an album of concert tickets to show for it.