Tuesday 12 March 2019

The Riven - The Riven (2019)

Country: Sweden
Style: Blues Rock
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 1 Mar 2019
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook

I've been going on and on about how every band I hear from Finland sounds a lot unlike every other band from Finland. Well, the same really goes for Sweden and I've been reviewing a few Swedish bands here lately. Soilwork aren't remotely like Arch Enemy, even though they both play melodic death metal. They're both even more different to Last Autumn's Dream, Candlemass and Soen. What's more, all the above are nothing like The Riven.

The Riven are hard to define because they're really just a rock band with a versatile take on the genre. I could easily see them being called hard rock but that does bring connotations that don't always apply. I'd lean towards blues rock a little more, because the blues is always there right behind whatever sound they're conjuring up on any particular track. They go with heavy blues rock, but they're hardly Cream, even when they really rock out on tracks like The Serpent or Leap of Faith.

So what do they sound like? Well, let's see. Far Beyond starts out in a folksy Led Zeppelin style but soon escalates into a down home Americana crossroads song before adding in a sort of middle eastern edge. Edge of Time is much more lively and has a seventies glam edge to it, sewn over the Thin Lizzy-style backing. Shadow Man kicks off with a ska feel, then launches into straight rock before dropping into a much quieter section. Finnish Woods is initially neatly subdued, but it escalates very well indeed as a soulful atmospheric track that eventually really rocks out.

Does that help? Not really, except to highlight that every one of these sounds feels natural for the band. Remember what Blondie albums sounded like? They had a consistent feel that was quintessentialy them, whether they were playing reggae or rap or punk or pop or whatever came to mind, each track having its own tangent. That's the sort of agreeable diversity I heard here.

Also like Blondie, the Riven are comprised of a very capable collection of musicians who will always be overlooked because there's a beautiful blonde with a powerful voice in front of them. Here, that's Charlotta Ekebergh and she shines very quickly, with some glorious sustain on The Serpent, but she shines brighter as the album runs on and her and its versatility starts to show. Her voice is rooted in the blues rock tradition, with a real power behind it even when it isn't trying. When it does, like on the slower blues song, I Remember, it really soars, highlighting some superb breath control, and, like Joss Stone, most people guessing her race will be wrong.

This is far from a one woman band though and the Riven thankfully don't make the mistake of giving that impression through their name. Everyone has their moments to shine, but surprisingly few because they're too busy working together. Max Ternebring gets the most memorable spotlight with a fantastic bass run on Finnish Woods, which is both the obvious standout here and the track that allows most individual expression.

Arnau Diaz is the only guitarist here and he seems to revel in having a new sound for each track. He doesn't seem to do much that's flash but, if you listen carefully to what he is doing, there's an impressive variance in technique going on. Olof Axegärd is the drummer tasked with keeping up with wherever they're all going next and he does an admirable job, even though that's a pretty tough task.

I like this a lot. I could go on about the positives all day and, given that I've been listening to this album all day, you'd have heard me if I had done a livestream or whatever the trendy kids are doing nowadays.

The negative side is less obvious. Really, the worst aspect here is the fact that everything here is what feels like a strong deep cut. It's a really good album but the best songs, like Finnish Woods, aren't obvious singles and the mainstream public doesn't seem to want that Blondie style of diversity any more. If your current song doesn't sound like the last one, then you must have sold out.

The Riven are absolutely not sellouts. They're a band who sound fabulous on their debut album (they issued an EP a couple of years ago) and ought to sound glorious on the next few. Bring 'em on!

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