Riven is a self-described “alternative rock movement” from Guangzhou, China (more about that in the interview in this issue). The band’s sound is as unusual as the location they come from. On their website they have a list of five rules they follow, and rule number one is “Never make the same song twice.”
Their album Postnationalism certainly lives up to that credo. It starts with a 30 second scream from lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist Christian von Heland, leading into very contemporary alt-rock guitar riffs. It’s a very accessible song, with von Heland alternating between a guttural growl and falsetto, and a nice guitar solo from Jakk Sludge (who is actually the only Chinese member of the band).
Lest one think they’ve got this band pegged as just another alternative hard rock band (albeit one with an interesting angle) they pull a complete 180 with songs such as Sarah’s Lullaby, which has an 80’s New Wave-type feel to it. Like I Do is a swirling, mystical rock piece with a classically-influenced instrumental bridge, primal vocal screams and dueling guitar riffs, and Hollow has a light, pop-like guitar riff and keyboard effects.
Circling back to the harder end of the music spectrum, Get Out Of My Way is a harder song along the lines of the opening track, with crunchy rhythm guitars and a blasting solo. Wireless is a ballad-type tune that cranks up to a cool, effects-laden guitar outro, really showing Sludge’s prowess as a guitarist.
I Don’t Know with its lush, multi-tracked guitars is sort of a midpoint between both ends of Riven’s musical spectrum.
When bands try to show their musical diversity sometimes it works; other times it comes across as unfocused and reaching too far. While trying to please everyone it is almost inevitable someone will be left behind. The guys in Riven have the musical chops and songwriting ability—they just need to decide what kind of band they want to be.