Based out of Chicago, Illinois, Rival was forged back in 1990, but it wasn’t until a good ten years later that we started seeing some studio time paying off for fans. The band issued a self-titled EP sometime in 1998 (which I remember seeing at a local used CD store years later and still kick myself for not picking up because I had no idea what I was looking at), and then a self-released full-length titled Modern World in 2000. Four years later, they found themselves signed with Metal Blade Records, which would have been fantastic news had this label not been too focused on the growing success of the Metalcore movement, really, that they basically had no idea how to market this, or no interest. Or both.
At the time this album came out, I was just starting my time at WSFX FM as a DJ, and quickly climbing to Metal Director later that year. Time went on and I happened on State of Mind sitting in the racks of the local CD store I normally frequented for fifteen dollars. Since I was now dealing with Metal Blade’s PR team by 2005, I decided to write and inquire about this release we never even got a copy of to play on the air. Turns out the record hadn’t done well at all according to that person, who went on to refer to it as a Heavy Metal release by a couple of old guys. Completely out of the label’s wheelhouse, right? Well, expressing interest in buying it, as I’m always up for some well done Heavy Metal by a couple of old guys, the contact at the time shipped physical copies to the entire staff since apparently no one wanted them, as well as one for the station to use. They showed up, we spun it, and, sure enough, it received a decent amount of love from the listeners because there’s always a market for Heavy Metal.
Of course, Rival in general was hard to get into right off the bat. The music is simply fantastic, but the vocals need a little time to get acquainted to (really, only a few minutes maximum) given how they can sound a little slurred at times. But, really, the lack of enunciation really wound up being the only fault of this release. Nearly every track on here was gold, even though not the most original for the genre, and you can tell that the members had a genuine love for the genre as well. State of Mind ran the gambit of providing some faster paced aggression like the title track and the thrashier “Hell Train”, as well as some slower pieces that handled themselves with a touch of ballad, like “Remember You” or “Insane” and it’s deep commanding bass grooves in the chorus.
I’ll admit, it’s been a while since I gave this one a spin, and I figured it best to throw i on again to make sure I wasn’t looking at it through nostalgia glasses. After ten years since I got this release I am happy to say it has held up so well over the years. This honestly made me even more excited to write this article, especially since I learned that Rival is still active! Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a new album (at least that I could find), which is just a shame, but I guess I can’t blame them after the treatment this recording received. Metal Blade completely dropped the ball with this one, all for the quest of the almighty buck. State of Mind deserved a much stronger push than what it got, and hopefully one day we’ll finally get a follow-up from Rival. But, for now, you can find this one pretty cheap on a number of on-line retailers, which is far beyond worth it for such a quality full-length effort that stood the test of time quite well, and I honestly think will continue to do so.