Review: RIVALS – Damned Soul

There’s an increasing frequency of bands attempting to fuse together layers of genres, often resulting in unsettling, misshapen records; but for LA’s RIVALS, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

‘Damned Soul’ is a pronounced debut LP, marrying pop-rock (with a deep weighting on the rock) with a consistent backbone of electronic synth-y hooks. Katie Wolfe, Sebastian Chamberlain and Micket Woodle have crafted a set of tracks layered with emotional complexity, with ‘Damned Soul’ delivering a seductive sense of animosity that far surpasses the expectations of a debut album.

From the inception of opening track ‘Over It’, RIVALS show they know how to build a song from the ground up, letting statement verses break into explosive choruses. It’s a pattern which ebbs through the brunt of the album. Rather than simply experimenting with electronic sounds, RIVALS run with them, interlocking the harsh edges of the beats through each track, and occasionally truly setting them loose in head-turning breakdowns. Most notably on the titular track.

‘Damned Soul’ was certainly born out of a dark place, made clear in the near haunting desperation of ‘Moonlit’, and the finger pointing of ‘Reflection’. However the undertones of self-appreciation and analysis in the lyrics give away a subtle softness to the tone of the record, with ‘Wild Things’ and closing track ‘To: Leila’ magnifying hopeful messages; “Whatever you do, stay happy, stay bright, and don’t, let demons, tear you up.”

A lesser band could rely on the strength of Wolfe’s vocal to carry the album, but this is not the case on ‘Damned Soul’. RIVALS are calculated; they know the right balance between thriving instrumentals and gripping lyricism and know how to integrate melodies to produce memorable and energetic tracks. While their overall structure may have a touch too much of a rigid pattern, it has only led to ten exceedingly well thought-out tracks.


‘Damned Soul’ by RIVALS is out now on Smartpunk Records.

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Words by Annabel Platt.

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