Who says modern rock music sucks? If you were to ask me that a year ago, I would’ve said, “modern rock sucks and rock ‘n’ roll was only good in the 70s/80s.” However, that was before I discovered Rival Sons; a young band from Long Beach, California that formed in 2009. I discovered them through a music YouTube channel titled Sea of Tranquility and you know they’re good because they have Pete Pardo’s approval!
Rival Sons’ first studio album, Before the Fire, was released on June 9, 2009. The line-up at the time was Jay Buchanan on lead vocals, Scott Holiday on guitars, Robin Everhart on bass, and Michael Miley on drums. Dave Cobb produced the album.
The band immediately hits hard with the first track, “Tell Me Something.” They sound fresh and energized, like they know what they’re doing. It’s good old rock ‘n’ roll with a modern twist. “Angel” is a slow headbanger with a wicked bassline. A slow headbanger is a song that listeners can headbang to without getting a sore neck. “Pocketful of Stones” has a nasty guitar riff and relatable lyrics. The most laid-back song on the album is “The Man Who Wasn’t There.” Buchanan’s vocals are soft and controlled on that track, which is a nice contrast from the rest of the album.
“On My Way” is another slow headbanger with a great melody and powerful vocals. “Flames of Lanka” is an experimental and moody track that sounds like something Pink Floyd would do. “I Want More” is a fun and upbeat dance song, basically. My favorite song on the album is “Memphis Sun.” It’s bluesy, Buchanan’s vocals are insane, and it’s got a killer fuzz guitar tone.
I think the first half of the album is stronger than the second half, but there’s no denying the power in Before the Fire. Rival Sons brought something different to the table and their musicianship is worth praising. Holiday is a brilliant guitar player, Buchanan has so much swagger as a lead vocalist, and the rhythm section of Everhart and Miley sounds so in-sync. Is it a stretch to call Miley the next John Bonham? Maybe, but the guy can really play! He can do crazy fills and add the right amount of flavor where it needs to be.
Rival Sons obviously paid tribute to bands like Led Zeppelin, Cream, Humble Pie, and Bad Company. However, they also brought in modern influences that both young and older listeners can enjoy. Overall, I enjoyed 10 out of the 11 songs on the album, which is about 91 percent. With that in mind, I’ll give Before the Fire a rating of 4.55 out of 5 stars.
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