I’ve been waiting for this one. Although I’ve been a fan of Valley of the Sun since I first heard The Sayings of the Seers in 2015, I didn’t start Monster Riff until late 2019—a few months after the band released their third full-length album, Old Gods.
The Chariot is Valley of the Sun’s first release since Monster Riff began, and it’s the first Valley of the Sun album to be reviewed on the site (though I’ll admit we’ve covered them plenty, like when I interviewed the band during the pandemic or when I saw them perform with Truckfighters).
The band members have established themselves as a powerful force straddling the line between Hard Rock and Stoner Rock, consistently writing massive and catchy riffs to flow under singer and guitarist Ryan Ferrier’s powerful vocals.
The Chariot is no different. From front to back, the band’s latest album is a compilation of exciting performances that pack just as much Audioslave as they do Brant Bjork.
About Valley of the Sun
Anyone who’s been around the scene for a minute likely knows about Valley of the Sun, but in case you need a refresher, here’s who’s in the Cincinnati-based band:
- Ryan Ferrier – Guitar/Vocals
- Lex Vegas – Drums
- Chris Sweeney – Bass, Keys
- Josh Pilot – Guitars
Although the band has historically been on the Fuzzorama Records label, they signed a deal late last year with Ripple Music for assistance in North America (in conjunction with Fuzzorama).
That puts them in good company. With no disrespect to Fuzzorama (home of incredible bands like Witchrider and We Hunt Buffalo), Ripple features standouts like Roadsaw, Mothership, High Desert Queen, Yawning Man, and Scott “Wino” Weinrich himself. Not a bad lineup.
VotS The Chariot Album Review
Release Date: June 17, 2022
Labels: Ripple Music (US) / Fuzzorama Records (Europe)
Track 1 – Sweet Sands
With “Sweet Sands,” the album opens on a cool Jimi Hendrix-inspired lick, before diving into a riff worthy of Tom Morello and Audioslave—a comparison you could make quite frequently throughout this album. “Sweet Sands” does what so many great Valley of the Suns tracks do: Pulls you into a slow headbang, then explodes into a powerful array of layered vocal tracks. This opener could have easily qualified as a single, but it serves its purpose here as an enticing opener.
Track 2 – Images
Valley of the Sun has always thrived on a certain element of sandy desert grit pumping through its amplifiers, and “Images” gets the band back to their down-and-dirty roots. And although the wicked guitar is slightly lost in the mix, the overall impact of this track is a powerful one.
Track 3 – Devil I’ve Become
One of the lead singles for The Chariot, the momentum of “Devil I’ve Become” rides on a massive, heavy riff that propels the song forward. Paired with Ferrier’s big vocals, “Devil I’ve Become” is another Valley of the Sun banger, and it comes with its own animated music video:
Track 4 – The Chariot
Valley of the Sun’s 2019 release, Old Gods, was a stark deviation from much of the band’s previous work, folding in inspiration from the world’s religions and cultures and wrapping them into the album’s overall sound and aesthetic. In the intro and outro to “The Chariot,” we find a similar vibe.
Track 5 – Headlights
Another single ahead of the full release, “Headlights” is an electrifying song like only Valley of the Sun could pull off. Featured layered vocals as catchy as the instrumentation itself, “Headlights” will have you humming to yourself later in the day.
Track 6 – As We Decay
Although “As We Decay” opens on a relatively clean guitar and soft vocals from Ferrier, the song gradually builds into a strong Hard Rock track, often incorporating twangs of Southern Rock for additional flavor. While it never crescendos like some of the heavier songs on The Chariot, “As We Decay” holds its greatest strength in its emotional punch.
Track 7 – Running Out of Love
“Running Out of Love” opens on a guitar and bass coupling reminiscent of Stoner Rock legend Brant Bjork, but that intro is soon replaced with those typical Valley of the Sun vibes. Like many tracks in the VotS catalog, “Running Out of Love” packs a bombastic guitar solo and big, catchy vocals that only grow catchier with each listen.
Track 8 – Sunblind
“Sunblind” is a quick and exciting track ready for a foot-stomping good time. Relying heavily on its own momentum for effect, the song alternates solos between the guitar and keyboard, which is an interesting and fresh take for our Hard Rock heroes.
Track 9 – The Flood
Playful and endlessly fun, “The Flood” rides atop an intricate riff and bellowed vocals—a combination that occasionally calls to mind AC/DC.
Track 10 – Colosseum
Perhaps the most emotive track on The Chariot based on instrumentation alone, VotS leverages a wall of fuzz and a lead guitar to set the mood, then Ferrier’s vocals fire up to hammer it into place. Listen closely to “Colosseum” and you may occasionally pick up a riff similar to “Riding the Dunes”—that killer concluding track to the band’s debut EP, The Sayings of the Seers.
Final Thoughts on The Chariot
Final Score: 10/10
Standout Tracks: “Headlights,” “Sweet Sands,” and “Devil I’ve Become”
Pros: The Chariot is Valley of the Sun on steroids. Sonically, this album falls somewhere between Old Gods and Volume Rock, channeling the spiritual worldliness of Old Gods with the incessant energy of Volume Rock—and all while honoring some of Rock’s greatest luminaries.
Like Clutch, Valley of the Sun is a band that understands how to repeatedly craft catchy Hard Rock tracks—and how to do so without growing stale or repetitive. Valley of the Sun still has plenty of tricks up their sleeve, and The Chariot is their best and most mature effort to date.
Cons: I’ll be honest: I didn’t love this album on the first listen. While I enjoyed it, the first listen felt like a Rambo movie—entertaining without a lot of substance. Surprised, I went back and listened closer, and that’s when I really started to appreciate The Chariot.
Valley of the Sun is a band that has found its core sound, and that’s forced the band to innovate slightly over the last couple of albums (Volume Rock cranked up the energy levels and Old Gods pulled inspiration from around the world). But The Chariot is focused, honoring the heroes of the Hard Rock and Stoner Rock scenes with that classic Valley of the Sun twist.