Valkyries are the “chooser of the slain” from Norse mythology: female figures, usually depicted on winged horses, who choose who may live or die in battle and bring their chosen to Valhalla, the afterlife hall of the slain, ruled by Odin. In 1860, Wagner based an opera on these mythical women, and they also speak much to the imagination within the heavy metal/hard rock community. Think of songs like Amberian Dawn’s “Valkyries,” or the more recent “Valkyrie” by British prog-rock band Asia, or as now with “Great Western Valkyrie,” the new album by hard-rock band Rival Sons.
Rival Sons was founded in 2009 in Long Beach, California after the disintegration of Black Summer Crush, the band of guitarist Scott Holiday and drummer Michael Miley. They found a vocalist in Jay Buchanan and a bassist in Robin Everhart, who was replaced in 2013 by David Best, and their fourth album continues their mission to reproduce vintage guitar-driven rock, helped by solid production from Dave Cobb. Apart from the title, the Valkyries do not feature anywhere in the theme of this record. The lyrics are mostly about personal victories and passionately sung by Buchanan. The pathos in his voice fits perfectly with the classic rock that blasts from your speakers.
The influences of Rival Sons are fairly obvious. So is “Good Luck” very obviously inspired by the heavier work of The Who, “Electric Man” and “Secret” are indebted to Led Zeppelin, while Rod Argent’s work seems to be the main source of inspiration for “Good Things.” The early work of Foreigner (long before the power ballads of the 80s) resounds in tracks like “Play The Fool” and “Open My Eyes.” So one might argue that Rival Sons doesn’t have a truly unique sound, but the group manages to so effortlessly mimic their virtuoso examples, I would give as counterpoint: who cares? They sound great! Just listen to the epic album-finale “Destination On Course,” a fitting climax to a great album.