Don’t-Miss Album: Rival Sons’ Hollow Bones

There was a dark period in college when I was a loyal fan of the band H.I.M. I made my own custom Ville Valo t-shirts and ordered overpriced posters from Finland to adorn my dorm room walls. They’ve since released at least five albums I’ve never heard and won’t bother to check out. We could call it a phase of poor taste, or we might say I can be fickle about bands. Both statements are probably accurate.

After several years of quiet adoration I wrote a glowing review of Rival Sons’ 2014 album, and, despite my mercurial nature, I’m equally as enthusiastic today as I was then.

Jay Buchanan and Scott Holiday of Rival Sons

Jay Buchanan and Scott Holiday, Rival Sons

Intriguing textural layers, staggeringly forceful vocals, and deliciously heavy riffery define Great Western Valkyrie, and it was hard for me to imagine that Rivals Sons could do it again. When a new album was announced, I was skeptical, especially because they’d been touring nonstop for two years. Could they possibly muster the energy to produce something wow-worthy in the three short weeks it took to knock out this record? Apparently Rival Sons is immune to creative burnout.

Rival Sons’ rapid-fire approach produces such solid, fully-realized results that I’ve often wondered what genius might come from more time spent in the studio, but Hollow Bones convinced me of their process. I’ll admit I wasn’t as immediately taken by it as I was Great Western Valkyrie. Still, three songs stood out upon first listen.

“Tied Up” has a hard-hitting singalong chorus and instant sex appeal. “Black Coffee” is a sensationally and soulfully executed cover of an Ike and Tina Turner (and later Humble Pie) classic. And the unconventionally romantic lyrics of the final track, “All That I Want,” had me holding back sniffles behind my computer screen at work.

Jay Buchanan, Rival Sons singer performs

Like many great albums, Hollow Bones has grown on me with more plays, and I’ve listened to it from front to back many times — a rare thing these days.

As fantastic as their albums are, the recordings don’t quite capture the powderkeg that is Rival Sons live. There are a handful of bands I’ll travel for, and these guys have earned their way onto the short list. The fact that U.S. stops are few and far between makes it difficult to catch the Sons in all their glory, but a spot as the sole support act for Black Sabbath’s The End tour will expose a broader audience, both international and American, to their talent.

Rival Sons live Santa Ana The Observatory

Rival Sons live at The Observatory in Santa Ana, California – February 12, 2016

Skillful musicianship and precise performances characterize Rival Sons’ recordings and shows. Without question, if you get a chance to bear witness, don’t miss it. As wayward as I may have been with my past affections for bands, my love for Rival Sons is here to stay and for good reason. Promise.

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