EXCLUSIVE REVIEW: Rival – Rival [EP/2015]


Artist: Rival

Album: Rival – EP


The world is a horrifying place. Loaded with malcontents, misanthropes and murderers, packed with putridity and more than its fair share of things that go “bump” in the night, it’s really a wonder we even venture outside at all. The most terrifying thing? Out of all the horrors that lurk beyond our doorstep, the worst thing is already in our homes, residing right under our noses, dwelling in the darkest and most dismal corners of our consciousness. It is violence. It is remorse. It is self-loathing and depression. It is the debut self-titled EP by Rival, the latest and greatest offering from Florida’s already floral and vivid garden of grotesquely heavy music. These Tampa Bay terrorizers are worse than any monster holding you hostage at gunpoint or madman with a machete to your neck; because they are the demon that would sooner force you to turn a gun on yourself.

When you first begin to explore the hideous crannies of your consciousness, the first thing you’re likely to find is perverse violence; energetic, undirected aggression–the very same all-devouring, directionless anger that defines Rival’s raunchy instrumentation. Rival is a relentless source of bouncy, booming musicianship that wastes no time in frantically grabbing the listener’s throat and squeezing every molecule of oxygen out of them. From the first dancy beats of “Seventy,” percussionist Ian Gray is unstoppable; once he starts, it would be easier to stop the energizer bunny. Gray’s drumming is always there to keep Rival racing along, adding bounce and bursts of blitzing quickness even during the heaviest parts of “Three’s Company” and “Bastard,” the album’s two heaviest hitters. “Deadbeat” sees Gray’s punctual percussion working perfectly alongside Brandon Klase’s booming bass. It isn’t often that bass is given this much domination in an album’s mix, but thankfully for the listener, it shines beautifully alongside guitarist Kyle Gray’s grisly guitar. Klase’s bass is as beautiful as it brutal–as its low, lurid twanging adds metric tons of heft to Rival’s already ruthless breakdowns. Even where it isn’t downright heavy, it continues to be bouncy and fun–with fun grooves that line “Deadbeat” that make the listener want to get up and start dancing. However, where Klase’s bass is business up front with a party in back, Gray’s gut wrenching guitar is all business. Gray makes each track absolutely drip with raw, filthy brutality–especially “Bastard,” which ranges from riff-driven heaviness to almost atmospheric moments of tedious calm, sending the listener through every shade the spectrum of human sensation and perception has to offer in a mere four-and-a-half minutes.

The deeper and longer your introspective journey progresses, however, the more frightening the discoveries are. Sentiments of bitterness and anger begin to turn inwards, directed at your friends, your family–and finally–you. Rival’s frontman, Matt Desmond, goes through this same progression, albeit not in such a linear fashion. Desmond’s vocal effort does his lyrical brilliance proud, as his role on Rival’s EP is one of the best emotional and visceral contributions made by a lead vocalist in recent history. With his speedy, sinister and self-hating screams on “Deadbeat” and his drawn out, agonizing shrieks on “Bastard,” he rips the listener’s chest open and clutches their heart, squeezing like a vise. However brilliant his performances on “Seventy” and “Deadbeat” might be, his strongest offering is far and away his screams at the climax of “Three’s Company.” Remember how you felt during the dark twists and turns of Villains’ “Like Father//Like Son”? Well if not, Desmond is determined to remind you. Like every other sentence he spits, his emotionally compromising vocal prowess is the perfect analog to his awe-inspiring, lip-quivering lyricism.

The more you examine the endless feelings you’ve relegated to the “off limits” portion of your head, the more you can’t stand yourself, or the company of others. You find yourself disgusting–nearly as disgusting as Rival, although in an entirely different manner. Rival’s EP is furious, filthy and gloriously grotesque; a testament to a practically perfect amalgam of technically-tinted grooviness and low, slow downtempo disaster. Rival’s debut offering isn’t all chugs and ridiculous bass drops; “Deadbeat” and “Bastard” both feature segments of ethereal drift and serenity, while “Seventy” has several speedy portions to get the listener’s blood flowing. However, if the listener needs a synopsis of what Rival are all about, they need look no further than “Three’s Company.” This track is every member of Rival at their finest and most synchronized; from the double-headed Gray onslaught of mammoth percussion and murderous guitar, to Klase’s creative and crushing bass, with (last but not least) Desmond’s dynamic and diverse vocals that drown the listener with emotion. Anger. Sadness. Depression. Loathing. Rival have it all in aces, but they aren’t afraid to dump it all on the listener just to watch them suffocate.

Once you’ve dug so deep into your own psyche, you can’t bring yourself to ever fully emerge. You’ll never be the “old” you, and your ability to trust and love is all but completely erased. Rival have that effect on the listener, establishing their place on heavy music’s hierarchy as a bitter, punishing prince for whom there is no adversary–or rival–to speak of.



For Fans Of: Bodysnatcher, Witness, Villains, Victims

By: Connor Welsh