New Song of the Week – THESE WICKED RIVERS: “Floyd”

Three years ago, British rock band These Wicked Rivers blew me away with their phenomenal album II (you can read my review here). Since forming in 2014, the Derby, England-based four-piece have gained a huge following in the UK and beyond with their melodic and riff-heavy blues-infused style of rock’n’roll. Making the music are John Hartwell (lead vocals/guitar), Arran Day (guitar, vocals), Sam Williams (bass) and Dan Southall (drums, vocals). It’s been a while since they’ve put out new music, but thankfully, they returned to the studio to record their second album Eden, which is due for release on May 22nd. In February, they released “Shine On”, the first single from the forthcoming album, and now follow-up with their second single “Floyd“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week.

These Wicked Rivers get right down to business, as “Floyd” blasts open with a thunderous onslaught of gritty distorted guitars and smashing drumbeats. I love the contrast between the calmer verses, with their bluesy riffs, throbbing bass and softly pummeling drums all creating a menacing vibe that adds to the building sense of tension, and the explosive choruses where all hell breaks loose. It’s fucking amazing rock played the way it should be played! The guys are highly-skilled musicians who play as an impeccably tight unit and deliver the rock goods to perfection. Hartwell has a powerful and vibrant singing voice that’s well-suited to their hard-driving style of blues rock. The way he transitions back and forth from earnest croons to impassioned spine-tingling wails is impressive.

Floyd seems to be a metaphor for the conscience of the town – which appears to be sadly lacking these days. All sorts of bad behavior – drinking, drugs, gambling, stealing and sexual affairs – are shown occurring in the video under the watchful eyes of a mysterious bearded man named Floyd. The band told me that most cannot see Floyd, but those who do/can see him, know why. As soon as they see him he’s gone, yet haunts their conscience. The photos we see him throw onto the ground in the woods at the end are of some of the people he’s observed committing their transgressions.

Floyd sits still on the cold wet night
Shackled to the sins he’s indebted to find
the fake facade printed in their eyes
Is what he heeds of the people playing out their lives
But Floyd knows the truth
He knows the lies
He knows all of the evil that you lock down inside

Floyd don’t come around here no more
Been seen in town once or twice before
The people speak of his judging eyes
But Floyd don’t come around here no more, Floyd don’t come around here
No more

People see Floyd around the town
He moves from street to street blending in with the crowds
But those who stop and catch his marble eyes
Usually know the reason why
‘Cause Floyd knows the truth
He knows the lies
He’s the judge, jury, councillor of freedom and exile

“Floyd” is a wickedly good song, and one of the best yet from this talented band. Based on the high quality of it and “Shine On”, Eden looks to be another stellar album.

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THESE WICKED RIVERS – Album Review: “II”

Followers of my blog know I’m a big fan of hard-driving, guitar-heavy rock, so it will come as no surprise that I love the music of UK band These Wicked Rivers. This four-piece plays down and dirty blues-infused rock’n’roll that sounds like they’re from Alabama or Mississippi, rather than Derby, England (no disparagement intended against Derby, of course).  Their melodic, riff-heavy music is incredibly exhilarating and dynamic, kicking you squarely in the ass! Making all this awesome noise are John Hartwell (lead vocals, guitar), Arran Day (guitar), Jon Hallam (bass) and Dan Southall (drums).

These Wicked Rivers band

In 2015 they released an excellent debut EP The Enemy, and follow up with their fantastic album II, which dropped at the end of April (and I’m finally getting around to reviewing at long last). With seven tracks, it’s longer than a typical EP and shorter than the usual album. But whatever category it’s placed in, this much is clear: the six major tracks are all heavyweights in terms of both quality (amazing) and quantity (all run four to six minutes in length), so I’d say it qualifies as an album.

These Wicked Rivers establish right off the bat what they’re all about with the aptly-titled intro track “Wicked River Blues,” then launch into “Stones Painted Gold.” Guitars blazing, they add a bit of funky bass to the bluesy mix as John snarls the searing lyrics that speak to a woman who’s done him wrong: “You turn it around, you know it’s never your fault. God, your such a martyr. Now you burn to the ground anyone in your way.” Arran’s distorted guitar solo in the bridge is fearsome! Without skipping a beat, “That Girl” arrives with a barrage of shredded, squealing guitars, throbbing bass, and muscular drums hammering out a hard-driving beat that had me banging my head and gyrating in my chair. These guys know how to rock!

They slow things down with the magnificent rock ballad “When the War is Won.” All the elements of this six minute long track come together to create an epic song that’s absolute perfection, and it’s my favorite on the EP. The complex, layered guitar work is positively mind-blowing, with gorgeous riffs and wailing solos that raise goosebumps with every listen. John passionately sings of finding his way back from a dark place in his mind: “I look around and know I’m free. I hear my voice, I say I wouldn’t do it any other way. I can save my life. Say the truth in their lies. I can walk with my head held high, now the war, now the war is won.”

The terrific, bluesy “Testify” has a Pearl Jam vibe, and John’s vocals even sound a bit like Eddie Vedder. Once again, the guys show off their exceptional musicianship, with killer riffs, Jon’s speaker-blowing bass and Dan’s aggressive percussion. I love the lyric “She tastes like sugar, and goes down like honey.” “Put Me on Trial (For Who I Am)” delivers more face-melting rock’n’roll goodness, courtesy of scorching hot riffs, crushing heavy bass and thunderous drums.

Last but certainly not least is the anthemic “Don’t Pray For Me,” another monumental track with jaw-dropping instrumentals. The song opens with a gospel-like organ solo, then the band’s signature intricate guitars, heavy bass and power drums take over. The lyrics address the complexities and contradictions inherent in many of us – we have both good and bad elements in our character: “I’ve been a loser, I’ve been a cruiser, I’ve been lost and I’ve been found. I’ve been a user, I’ve been a bruiser. I’ve been up and I’ve been down. And I’ve been a taker, I’ve been a faker. I’ve been a liar and a cheat./ I’ve been every man in between./ Don’t you pray now.  Don’t you pray for me. Don’t judge a man by only what you see.

II is a brilliant album that firmly establishes These Wicked Rivers as one of the finest rock’n’roll bands in the UK. These guys are phenomenal musicians, and need more exposure so that more people will discover them and their awesome music. I urge my readers to support the band by following them on their social media and downloading/purchasing their music:

WebsiteFacebookTwitter / Instagram

Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud

Purchase:  iTunes