Brave Rival: Life’s Machine Review

You don’t think of the 1990s’ R&B group En Vogue as a blues or rock act, but their music touched on both of those styles, among others, giving the trio a wide appeal. Brave Rival, a British blues/soul/rock band builds on that legacy in a fascinating—and surprising—way, on their debut, Life’s Machine.

En Vogue doesn’t often enter the blues rock conversation, but Brave Rival isn’t a typical band, fronted by two female lead singers, each with a stunningly powerful voice. Singers Chloe Josephine and Lindsey Bonnick can hang with most rhythm and blues singers, and, if they were so inclined, could probably carve out pop careers, separately or together. Instead, they add their voices to a metal-sounding guitarist, Ed “The Shred” Clarke (who either had parents with high musical expectations, or else loves a good rhyming nickname) and a propulsive rhythm section.

The music is overwhelming, like an indoor fireworks show taking place in a circus tent. You don’t know where to look or listen. But Brave Rival owns the chaos. Because even though you have two strong singers going head-to-head, with a top-notch guitarist trying to out-do them, everything is melodic. So wherever you choose to focus, it’s great stuff.

“Secrets” starts with a funky guitar riff that shifts into distortion before moving into a bluesy stomp of a chorus that recalls En Vogue’s “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It).” To be clear, this isn’t pop rhythm and blues. Josephine and Bonnick flirt with the style, but from the crunchy guitar to the anthemic vocals, this is more rock than anything. But there’s also a rhythm-and-blues underpinning.

“Come Down” is a soulful ballad, Clarke digging deep into his blues chops. The song builds, becoming more dramatic, one singer transitioning into multiple, until a choir comes in, which quickly steps back for an epic Clarke solo. Josephine and Bonnick then return to claim their right to the song, and a singer moves into shrieks that would impress vintage Mariah Carey, until the track is endless guitar runs, soaring voices, and pounding drums. It’s completely over-the-top but also perfect. Listening to the tracks exhausts you; you can’t imagine how the band feels after performing all of that.

“Run and Hide” has a punk guitar riff that morphs into dueling vocals, feeling like Evanescence, another band that knew how to successfully manipulate bombast. Clarke swings in with a metal solo that, if it doesn’t steal the spotlight, borrows it for a while.

Brave Rival aren’t your typical blues rock band. They’re influenced by the blues, and by artists who were more directly impacted by it, but they take the music far beyond those musical styles, leveraging two killer vocalists and a phenomenal guitarist to create a sound without restraint, but that also leaves your wanting more. You have a bunch of talented musicians attacking each song full bore, but with an awareness and sense of music that makes the songs better. Life’s Machine throws a lot at the listener, but everything offered up improves the tunes.

The Review: 9/10

Can’t Miss Tracks

– Come Down
– Run and Hide
– Break Me
– Secrets

The Big Hit

– Secrets

Steven Ovadia

Steven Ovadia interviews blues artists about their songwriting process for Working Mojo.

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