These Wicked Rivers / Force Of Nature as classy as you get

If you’ve seen Derby’s These Wicked Rivers live, you will know how powerful and captivating they are. There’s something about their live show that wasn’t fully represented on the debut album Eden. However, sophomore record Force Of Nature goes a long way to catching the band’s full live sound.

These Wicked Rivers – Force Of Nature (Fat Earth Records)

Release Date: 1 March 2024

Words: Paul Hutchings

These Wicked Rivers don’t mess around, keeping things simple yet with an artful delivery that makes them stand out from the masses. Their songwriting is crafted, composed, and instant, yet multiple plays reap rewards with subtle differences noted each time.

There’s the foot-stomping groove and vibe that makes These Wicked Rivers instantly recognisable. The title track that kicks things off here is a real anthem, a feel-good singalong song that really fires the blood from the opening riffs.

Check out the earworm that is Black Gold or the longtime live staple Testify. Both come early, within the first four songs on the album, ensuring that the tempo is high, attention is centred, and all focus is here.

These Wicked Rivers - Force Of Nature. As classy as you get.
These Wicked Rivers – Force Of Nature. As classy as you get.

Musically, this is as classy as you get. It’s perfectly pitched. Force Of Nature brings the tempo up immediately. There’s the slower, perfectly pitched midpoint with When The War Is Won and the classy outro that is Lonely Road. It’s balanced brilliantly.

There’s plenty of superb guitar work thanks to Arran Day, who makes this sound as easy as he does when you see him high-kicking at the band’s incendiary gigs.

Move on through this record, and The Riverboat Man will melt your face, not purely because of Day’s searing lead work, but the blend of thick organs that ensures there is enough heft to satisfy those who desire something a bit heavier, as well as those who just want to dance.

Whilst there are many bands who take this Southern sound and add their own twist, few do it as well and with such swagger. These Wicked Rivers bring as much from their grunge influences as they do from legends in Skynyrd and Hatchet and the sheer arrogance of Aerosmith, all topped with a distinctly UK edge.

They can do the rabble-rousing with the best, but they also do the introspective. Just To Be A Man sees them take things down a few levels, edging close to country in many ways.

But underneath it all, the steely side of the band is always lurking. In John Hartwell the band also possess a singer with a soulful, heartfelt vocal, perfectly matched to the rich and fluid guitar work that Day brings.

Perhaps it’s the constant touring that has given These Wicked Rivers a new energy on Force Of Nature. It’s an album that has been in the pipeline for some time, so the songs are not going to be new to them.

But for the fans who will no doubt already have ordered this release, yes, the anthems are all there. It’s impossible not to be singing along to this by the second play. And unlike many albums, it maintains its energy with Lord Knows and Don’t Pray for Me.

It’s only the delightful Lonely Road, a gentle conclusion to the album, that sees the tempo drop. It’s melancholic, with delicious acoustic guitar and keys guiding the listener to the exit with no pressure.

They may be badged under the classic rock banner, but there’s much more to These Wicked Rivers. Force Of Nature is a superb album from start to finish.

Sleeve Notes

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