Bands like Rival Sons are the dictionary definition of why rock endures. When you have new bands who continue to enthral rock fans of all ages alongside a steadfast resolution to continuously up their game, it’s a middle finger to those saying rock is dead.
However, Rival Sons have a task on their hands. Their last album, Great Western Valkyrie was a masterpiece for the ages. Look back at my favourite albums of 2014 and you’ll see what names they beat to claim their position. As such, I questioned how they’d top it. Well, for a start, the majority of 2016 has and will see them open for Black Sabbath with Ozzy Osbourne declaring his admiration for them.
With Hollow Bones, it shares the same feature as every Rival Sons album; it takes a few listens for it to gel with you. There’s no reinventing the wheel but similarly, it’s not more of the same. You can’t accuse Rival Sons of rehashing the same thing for every album. It’s recognisably them with the same core sound but with a different flavour.
There certainly seems to be an underlying theme of making two points on this record. To step out of the shadow of constantly being hailed as the “new” or “modern” Led Zeppelin. Hollow Bones is grittier than Zeppelin ever aimed for. And as they seem intent on clawing their way to the top, they once again prove they’re one of the shining lights of modern rock and their audience which runs from teenagers to those who were Apollo-bred is further testament to it.
Jay Buchanan’s voice is at its soulful best throughout but takes on new permeations with guttural screams on “Hollow Bones Pt 1”. It’s a perfect example of how refined the band have become album over album and forging their identity. He also savagely howls his way through “Pretty Face” as the song changes from a chilled out background song to an in-your-face barn-burner with the chorus, perfectly mirroring the topic at hand.
Meanwhile with the chunky blues riff from Scott Holiday, “Tied Up” is the exception on the album; it could have come from any point in the band’s career as Michael Miley calmly drives most of the action with a deft hand on his drumkit, making a tight fit with bassist Dave Beste for an outstanding rhythm section. You’ll be keeping time with them, as effortlessly changing from slow to fast and back again as the pair do themselves.
Then, there’s “Black Coffee” with its jarring and grinding opening licks yet before you even hear it, you begin to question your sanity as a band has written a song about the virtues and wonders of this drink. Then you realise, it’s a cover of the Humble Pie song (itself, as has been pointed out to us, a cover of the original Ike & Tina Turner number!) and it shouldn’t surprise you. When you hear the lyrics, you realise it’s potentially the most genius metaphor ever conceived.
Since the band had a short space of time to record the album, it explains why there’s (only) nine tracks. However, quantity does not make quality and they could have put out four tracks and it wouldn’t detract from the finish product. It’s a dark horse as it leaves you satisfied after nine tracks whereas its predecessor (ten tracks) left you wanting more.
There was a point when I had indulged in Great Western Valkyrie enough where I thought it should have been Rival Sons’ self-titled album because it got to the essence of the band better than their previous efforts. I’d like to make the case for this one, I think they’ve missed a trick here but I’m sure I’ll be saying something similar for album six.
Hollow Bones is released 10th June