Rival Sons – Lightbringer: Album Review

Second release in 2023 from Rival Sons as Lightbringer adds fuel to the fire of Darkfighter.

Release Date: 20th October 2023

Label: Parlophone

Format: CD / digital / LP

The companion album to Darkfighter which appeared in the early months of 2023, Lightbringer finds Rival Sons in rude health. Having gained plaudits for Darkfighter, guitarist Scott Holiday confesses how “we balanced them out with energy and meaning, but the follow-up always needed to deliver a bigger blow. I think Lightbringer provides this.” Bearing in mind their philosophy that with a two-record release, the first record has to pack enough of a punch and tell enough of a story for the second half to have an even bigger impact, the six tracks manage to reinforce the ‘new’ Rival Sons presented in Darkfighter.

Vocalist Jay Buchanan warns us that the new record “is a step beyond the personal innovation and exploration. It goes a little further.” Said warning comes courtesy of the title track that wafts in on a gentle acoustic wind that’s all rustic and introspective to the point of being a ‘hold your breath’, stripped back to the barest of bones, passage until an explosive funk stirs up any sense of reverie. Over almost nine minutes, the track veers off into a mid-song, snaking, Eastern-tinged workout, with the Hammond playing a strong role before returning to the familiar ground set up at the opening where the acoustic guitar dominates.

It’s quite a striking opening gambit, balancing the dynamics with a bold and cinematic crescendo. Almost like Rival Sons have been listening to Emerson Lake & Palmer! The bolder approach is reinforced by Before The Fire, a grander production that’s more about atmosphere and texture rather than aggressive Bluesy riffs. “I took my innocence for granted, the future belonged to the old,” sees the philosophy taking a more realistic direction, maybe musing over mortality and the passing of time.

On the other hand, the mellow side gets more of a shoe in with the reflective and tender Redemption – “Redemption comes in oh so many ways,” sings Jay, the easy pace likely accompanied by a widescreen desert sunrise visual. Mosaic is similarly mellow – no less intense – but with an injection of squealing passion from some treated guitar and an uplifting swaying manner to bring down the curtain.

Along with Mercy (a dirty Zep riff if ever there were one), Sweet Life is the band’s self-declared “most old school Rival Sons song on the two records.” The love of that mid-Sixties organic sound that so influenced the early Rival Sons ethic. Swaggering with the Buchanan signature; snake-hipped and passionate as he shimmies and shakes the bad rhythm for good.

There’s no escaping the roots; the harder edges of Rival Sons will always provide a thrill, yet where the branches reach – who knows where they might lead. Lightbringer is proof of a band that’s not worried about growing up.

Here’s Sweet Life:

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