300 Elektra Entertainment
rating icon 8 / 10

Track listing:

01. Darkfighter
02. Mercy
03. Redemption
04. Sweet Life
05. Before The Fire
06. Mosaic

GRETA VAN FLEET are often coined as the modern band that's bringing the "classic rock" sound back, but they aren't the only ones who pay homage to '70s and '80s rock with their music. California rockers RIVAL SONS got their start in the mid-2000s, before classic rock revivalists were a trend. It just so happened that their sound was very classic, offering a fuzzy, blues-based form of rock that was starting to become new again.

Now, the Grammy-nominated band is releasing their latest album, "Lightbringer", which is their second full-length album to arrive in 2023. It's the companion album to "Darkfighter", which arrived in June.

Although only six tracks, and with an opening song clocking in at nearly 9 minutes, "Lightbringer" still has plenty of meat and juice. "Darkfighter" kicks off the album. Titled after the band's previous album, it is really several songs in one, from a gentle folk ballad to a raging rocker to a straight-ahead classic rock tune. Frontman Jay Buchanan's vocals shine in the beginning and end, but "Darkfighter"'s middle is purely instrumental, giving it an interesting dynamic. It may never be a radio single, but "Darkfighter" breaks novel ground.

"Mercy" follows, bringing a super catchy, 1960's-style guitar riff and vintage, retro vocals. As Buchanan begs the listener to have a little mercy, guitars swirl and hug his vocals, and the rhythms move the song along urgently. The track, like much of "Lightbringer", has a jammy feel that shows off the band's musicianship.

Next up is the album's big power ballad, "Redemption", a sweet, passionate song. As the album progresses, "Before the Fire" is one of the strongest and most radio-friendly songs on the set. While its sonics recall KINGS OF LEON or even COLDPLAY, RIVAL SONS add their usual hard rock flair with a warmer style, making it very much their own. "Sweet Life" is another radio-ready single, with an upbeat, catchy delivery. "Mosaic" rounds out the album in a most delicate fashion, with Buchanan singing of "joy, heartache, happiness and pain" amid acoustic guitars, as the album closes.

Listening through "Lightbringer" and this year's "Darkfighter", both records are cohesive and share a similar style and sonics. It would be wrong to categorize the songs on "Lightbringer" as having more "light" than those on "Darkfighter"; instead, both albums offer a deep, intense nostalgic rock sound with a further move towards roots and blues.

Author: Anne Erickson
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