Derby’s ‘These Wicked Rivers’ have impressed since their inception in February 2014 with their brand of modern rock, influenced by Black Stone Cherry and Clutch (amongst others). The band consists of John Hartwell (Lead Vocals & Rhythm Guitar), Arran Day (Lead Guitar & Backing Vocals), Jon Hallam (Bass) and Dan Southall (Drums).
The release of their debut EP “The Enemy” (2015) garnered many positive reviews and landed them on a couple of festival slots in the process. Recorded with Ben Gaines at Artifex Studios in Derby, “II” presents a more polished sound than their debut, with bigger songs and a more mature vibe.
“Wicked River Blues” starts proceedings and immediately takes you into the Deep South with chain gang vocals. I wasn’t expecting the full, deep, rich tones of Hartwell’s voice. The imagery that the track conjures up in my mind is that of slaves working the cotton fields. The percussion could be mistaken for picks breaking rocks and it instantly makes it mark to tell you that ‘These Wicked Rivers’ are something a bit special.
“Stones Painted Gold” is up next and it’s what you would normally expect from a Rock band as opposed to the opener. It is a full on, hard rocking song that smacks you upside the head with great, catchy riffs, an awesome bass line and a complete change of tempo before the squealing guitar lead kicks in. Dirty, sleazy blues rock at its finest.
Another heavy riff comes out of my speakers and you just know straight away that live, “That Girl” must go down a storm with crowds. Dan Southall plays the drums with ferocity, Jon Hallam’s bass keeps everything ticking along with interesting lines as the guitars spit out their venom, all underneath Hartwell’s soulful delivery. Try listening to this without wanting to rock out and air guitar. You’ll find it a struggle to keep still.
The quieter side of These Wicked Rivers is revealed within “When The War Is Won” which has a slight Guns N Roses feel to it with real bluesy guitars. Everything about this song is just superb. All the players are on top form adding their respective layers to create a dark, brooding atmosphere and at the centre, the pulsing heartbeat of the drums. This is an outstanding song that truly showcases John’s vocals.
It would appear that the band is made of riffs, as we are treated to another belter on “Testify.” This song is driven by powerful rock vocals, a thunderous rhythm section and fantastic guitar playing. This is a sleazy Hard Rock/Blues song that features more superb guitar leads and wears its Clutch influences proudly.
Up next we have “Put Me On Trial" (For Who I Am) which is a change of pace for the verses with the bass more prominent along with the vocals. The chorus is catchy and the dynamics are great. The way the instruments weave themselves in and out of the song offers a nice difference to what has come before and we’re accompanied along the way with more wall of sound guitars and more fabulous lead lines.
Closing song “Don’t Pray For Me” starts with an organ as John Hartwell appears to be confessing his sins to the listener. It’s not until 1:19 that the rest of the band join in and the track builds up from there. The song is heavily blues driven and has a true power ballad feel to it minus the cheesiness. These Wicked Rivers have saved the best until last. Everything about this song is wonderful. The way it’s played, the way it builds and the heartbreaking lyrics. It drips with pure emotion and you can feel it pour through the speakers. It gave me goosebumps.
How has it taken me this long to find out about These Wicked Rivers? They sound like they are straight out of the Louisiana swamps and have an authentic, sleazy, blues sound to them. Once “II” is over, your options are limited to just simply pressing play and listening to it again.
‘II’ is due to be released on 28th April and I cannot recommend highly enough that you go buy it.
I implore you to click the links below and check these guys out. They are that good!