While The Riven’s sound is comprised of several familiar hard rock elements, it’s tricky to place them in a specific scene. They aren’t so reliant on their 70s rock influences to get grouped in with the revivalists, nor do their trip-out moments really approach stoner territory. Either way, their self-titled debut album is a stunning display of blues rock that mixes the youthful vitality that one would expect with the tightness that could only be executed by seasoned veterans.
The musicianship goes a long way in setting The Riven apart from many of their peers. The vocals are particularly stellar, largely sticking to an alto range that keeps from sounding static due to a series of memorable melodies that are backed by the right amounts of attitude and power. The bass also plays an important role in proceedings, if not dominating them outright, with electrifying chugs and buildups. With all this going on, the guitar isn’t easily overlooked; much of the album’s flavor would be lost without that earthy twang.
But for a band whose strengths seem to be based on organic energy, it’s interesting to note that their slower, subtler tracks are often the best. The rustic mid-tempo “Far Beyond” hints at more dynamic textures, but things really pick up with the scaled back, bass driven “Finnish Woods.” From there, “I Remember” really slows things down with an old school blues jam, and “Sweet Child” closes things out with a livelier swing rhythm.
Thankfully, the faster tracks also deliver, often triggering Thin Lizzy associations in the process. “The Serpent” nicely highlights what is to come as dramatically crashing chords and howling vocals are placed above a persistent bass gallop, but these elements are arguably put to even greater use toward the end of the album with “Leap of Faith.” I can also appreciate the scaled back yet swaggering touches as heard on “Shadow Man” and “Fortune Teller.”
Overall, The Riven’s bare bones presentation and familiar elements make their first album seem stylistically basic but these ingredients end up yielding a surprisingly exciting cocktail. Influences from Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy, and Heart among others should endear the Swedes to 70s rock diehards, but there’s a contemporary energy that I find comparable to Wytch Hazel, Graveyard, or Red Dragon Cartel. You’ll find plenty of rock like this these days but not much of it sounds this fresh, especially at this early stage.
“Leap of Faith”