As Metal and Hard Rock continues to evolve, with so many genres pushed and explored over so many years, stretching and expanding in that everlasting search for originality, sometimes I get a pleasant surprise when music totally rooted in the past can feel so refreshing. The Riven are utterly rooted in the past, a blues/psyche hard rock sound and attitude that evokes the mood of a moment in time which most of us can only guess at as many of the people listening to it weren’t even born – including the band themselves! Yet The Riven and a few other bands of their ilk are totally nailing that feeling that we all have when we think of the late 60’s and early 70’s.
I had to look up the meaning of the bands name after an Aussie friend of mine tried to convince me it was what they call a large crow back in Australia (“Oy noy, It’s not a croy, it’s a Riven mate!”). I wasn’t falling for that (once I was sober…) and it appears that it actually means The Violently Divided, which actually couldn’t be further from the band’s actual style. The Riven are a very tight unit indeed, with a very raw, basic sound – y’know, that live-in-the-studio vibe that was generally achieved at the time by…well…recording an album live in the studio. Production-wise Black Sabbath’s debut is a popular reference point, but The Riven have a more progressive blues/psyche sound that ranges nearer to maybe Jefferson Airplane through to Budgie. There’s a bit of Rush’s debut at times too in the band’s proggier moments (parts of ‘Far Beyond’ for instance), yet despite vocalist Totta Ekebergh being female, the vocals are a little lower and more powerful (hence those aforementioned hints of Jefferson Airplane).
The bass is high in the mix, used at times almost as a second guitar which is always the key to this style of music when it is done well, with the guitar, bass and drums working as a tight, intricate machine, but it’s hard to deny that Ekebergh’s vocals are the star of the show. It’s rare to hear a modern female vocalist get so much power with quite a low register. Also, the times when she allows her style to drift upwards there is the addition of a little gravel to her voice which just makes me want to hear more and more. The verses are entertaining the choruses memorable, always echoing the mood of the music and always delivered with total conviction, sometimes bordering on an almost soul-type voice on the intro to ‘Fortune Teller’. Great stuff.
The Riven stay true to the basics, not appearing polished or refined as modern acts of a similar attitude like say Vintage Caravan or Rival Sons can be. It’s their own vibe they are going for and have tons of elements that will appeal to fans of both those bands and many more, just as they will appeal to retro doom fans as well as blues rock devotees. The songs vary in tempo and mood so if you are absolutely fine, as I am, with a down-to-basics-production, what’s not to like? This is a great start to what is hopefully a long and prosperous journey for The Riven.
(8/10 Andy Barker)