Distributor/label: Metal Blade Records
Buy Album: https://www.indiemerch.com/metalbladerecords/item/55507
Band Website: https://www.facebook.com/riversofnihil
Jake Dieffenbach – Vocals,
Brody Uttley – Guitar,
Jon Topore- Guitar,
Adam Biggs – Bass & Vocals,
Jared Klein- Drums.
2. The Silent Life
3. A Home
4. Old Nothing
5. Subtle Change (Including The Forest Of Transition & Dissatisfaction Dance)
6. Terrestria III: Wither
8. Death Is Real
9. Where Owls Know My Name
Outside of the cathartic, purging nature of metal, it’s tough to think of other instances of emotion that the genre can comfortably take within its stride without sounding too forced. Outright anger and aggression is primarily the name of the game in our beloved genre, but when music has the ability to cover the broadest spectrum and touch all aspects of people’s lives, such narrow-mindedness can be a bit of a drag. Sure, metal discusses all manner of different topics (usually those that swing to the negative side of life), but rarely does it truly involve and consume you in a particular mindset.
This is what sets RIVERS OF NIHIL apart from their peers. Theirs is a ferocious blend of death metal fury melded to post-rock beauty that wonderfully conveys an extra sense of sentimental heaviness. Their third release, “Where Owls Know My Name”, weighs particularly heavy on the mind with a wistful sense of regret and acute awareness of the passage of time that is at once an unbridled joy and chastening listen. Just listen to the proper curtain raiser in “The Silent Life” – a melting pot of rage, despair and heart-wrenching regret that slams into mind with biting death metal riffs and sorrowful melodies. It’s a thorough assault on the senses, and one that will keep coming back time and time again throughout the album.
By their own admission, RIVERS OF NIHIL are not the heaviest, nor fastest, nor most technical band but, alongside their two previous releases, “Where Owls Know My Name” proves that the are, above all, exemplary songwriters. How else can the experimentation on offer here – representing a departure of sorts from their previous efforts – be so effective? Most notably, saxophone makes an appearance throughout the record to devastating effect – providing everything from chaotic squarks on “The Silent Life”, to hauntingly majestic melodies on the euphoric closer “Capricorn/Agoratopia” – whilst Hammond and strings add further colour to the vibrant tapestry. There’s the danger with such left turns that the core sound would be lost or original fans would be alienated, but rather than being a bolted-on gimmick, these elements feel very much at home.
The album and all that it encompasses is ably complimented by a delightful production that allows breath between every instrument. A perfect example is in the menacing instrumental “Terrestria III: Wither”, where strings, synths, drums and guitars all combine to form a wickedly dark piece, whilst the super prog-fest that is “Subtle Change (Including The Forest Of Transition & Dissatisfaction Dance)” gives everything the chance to shine. If anything, the latter is a little too wild at times, but that Hammond-led chug during its final throes is worth hanging on for – it’s a grower. Yet it’s “Hollow” where matters reach a glorious culmination – it has it all. From blistering blast beats and technical chops, to gorgeous melodies of woe that pull hard on the heartstrings; it’s a tour-de-force of progressive death metal writing. It ought to be a staple in the band’s live setup for years to come (as should “Death Is Real” for the death metal heft and skin-stripping solo).
Without a shadow of a doubt, RIVERS OF NIHIL’s third release can be thought of as no less than an absolute pinnacle of progressive death metal songwriting. The care and attention to detail that is on display within “Where Owls Know My Name”’s ten tracks is utterly masterful, and the experimentation pays dividends all the way to the bank. Full to bursting with riffs, emotion and soul, one almost hopes that other bands on the cusp of writing their next release take stock of such a release as this.
Almost. But not quite. It would be a shame for every band to start writing material like this – the result would be a glut of by-numbers albums, and such a scenario negates the spectacular work on display here. Simply, an album like “Where Owls Know My Name” would suddenly become far less special, and work like this should not be lost in a sea of tedium. So long may RIVERS OF NIHIL’s efforts stand out as the gleaming gem in progressive death metal’s crown; a crown that they can now comfortably call their own.