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15 guitar bands to know about in the new wave of classic rock

Rival Sons, a rock ‘n’ roll band from Southern California, has been kicking out the grooves since 2009. So how did the four-piece end up as one of the forerunners of a new, surging musical genre termed the “New Wave of Classic Rock” in 2021, after six albums and more than a decade in existence?

15 guitar bands to know about in the new wave of classic rock

Rival Sons guitarist Scott Holiday says, “This type of music is finding popularity as a kind of pushback to what we’ve been fed over the last 10 years.” “Things go in cycles, and fresh rock ‘n’ roll – not alternative or metal, but a genuine rock ‘n’ roll sound – has been extremely difficult to come by in the last decade.” Rival Sons, like other bands in the NWOCR (New Wave of Classic Rock) genre such as Greta Van Fleet, the Struts, Dirty Honey, Dorothy, and others, perform music that harkens back to the seminal work of icons such as Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Aerosmith, Deep Purple, Cream, and others.

This current generation of performers, like the masters, is generating hard-hitting, swaggering, riff-driven rock ‘n’ roll based on a core vocal-guitar-bass-drum arrangement. Unlike the originals, the musical and cultural milieu that the up-and-comers are joining hasn’t exactly been friendly, as Holiday points out. However, the ephemeral nature of music fads – as well as rock’s evolving status in popular culture – is nothing new. Since the 1950s, when rock ‘n’ roll originally emerged with its hazardous, distorted grooves, the genre’s popularity has risen and dropped on a regular basis. And “Rock Is Dead” has been declared by a slew of critics throughout the years. However, new rock artists continue to fill clubs (in normal times), rise through the ranks, and drive the form ahead, with a new generation of kids picking up electric guitars and generating an exhilarating racket.

What makes this current resurgence so intriguing is that these bands are beginning to achieve widespread crossover success, occupying valuable cultural real estate that has been mostly occupied by hip-hop and radio music for the better part of the last decade or two. NWOCR bands are signing major label deals, soundtracking superhero TV shows and Levi’s campaigns, performing at fashion shows and Coachella, topping Billboard charts, receiving Grammy nominations, racking up millions of digital streams, attracting legions of global fans, and galvanizing a strong grass-roots online community (many of whom congregate on the popular New Wave of Classic Rock Facebook group).

The NWOCR scene is made up of a wide group of bands, both musically and philosophically. They’re experimenting with a variety of styles, from bluesy and rootsy to glam, progressive, and straight-up speaker-rattling rock, and tackling lyrical issues that are very personal to their own experiences and global perspectives. Their sound is built on a firm foundation of guitar-based rock ‘n’ roll that’s full of big riffs, intoxicating grooves, spine-tingling vocals, and stadium-sized ambitions, but there’s one thread that connects them: their sound is built on a firm foundation of guitar-based rock ‘n’ roll that’s full of big riffs, intoxicating grooves, spine-tingling vocals, and stadium-sized ambitions. “Like in the 1990s when bands were labeled ‘grunge,’ you had a group of bands who didn’t sound very similar or even have the same ethos, but they were all under one umbrella,” Holiday explains. “It was probably frustrating and strange for them all to be lumped into this one category, but they were better off in the end. It grew into a movement.” The Struts’ guitarist Adam Slack of the New Wave of Classic Rock label says, “We embrace it.” “However, we are committed to pushing the production of our music into the twenty-first century, rather than becoming carbon copies of the past.”

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