Rival Sons: Feral Roots – Album Review

The Californian riff-rockers are Back in the Woods with their sixth studio album, Feral Roots.

Rival Sons have returned for another round of hard rock lucidity. Packed with blues and folk Zeppelinisms, Feral Roots is another celebration of the power of the electric guitar.

Lead single and first track, Do Your Worst, steers the direction for the first few tracks, introducing some untraditional guitar tones with more traditional rock riffs. This particular track is a nice example of the guitar effects that this record is full of. Pitch-shifting produces a synth-like timbre more akin to the likes of Jack White and Wolfmother than Led Zeppelin. It also demonstrates the juxtapositons between verses and choruses that some of the tracks on Feral Roots have. Raw, riff-heavy verses are followed by open, riff-free, vocal-oriented choruses.

As we’ve come to expect, there are some impressive vocal performances here by Jay Buchanan, and these are particularly nice on the album’s folk-focused numbers. The album’s title track maintains a folk-turned-heavy dynamic and Buchanan’s vocals make the choruses soar. A definite high of the album. There is no doubting Led Zeppelin’s influence in this section of the album (Back in the Woods, Look Away and Feral Roots) and as hard as it is for me to criticise this at all, it does lead to some slightly gratuitous creative choices – for example the drum intro to Back in the Woods and the 90 seconds of folk guitar that doesn’t really lead to the start of Look Away.

Though the middle of the album does slow to a trundle in places, Feral Roots swaggers until the end and has more than enough examples of Scott Holliday’s capability on guitar solo duty. With the use of synths and female group backing vocals, the album does show a little more of the band than just their comfort zone, exemplified by album closer, Shooting Stars, which is led by gospel-esque soul vocals. A nice way to end a surprisingly individual album.

Verdict: B

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