Sharp Tech-Death Meets Glorious Soundscapes
A relatively new band on the death metal scene, Rivers of Nihil, have already made a lasting impression. From their first LP, The Conscious Seed of Life, to their 2015 release, Monarchy, they’ve constantly evolved and covered new ground in the unexpectedly vast genre of death metal. This album’s story, Where Owls Know My Name, is no different; in fact, it is even more apparent.
From the get-go, Rivers warm up the listener with a hauntingly beautiful electric piano, string and vocal conglomerate on “Cancer/Moonspeak.” This song both lets the listener know that the album will incorporate some clean vocals, and prepares them for that first dive down into the heavy groove of “The Silent Life.” This soft-to-hard transition is not a new aspect of a death metal record, however, Rivers of Nihil executes this transition without a hitch, and therefore the album yields numerous moments of progressive musicianship and mood alterations.
“The Silent Life” marks the first full track and the first appearance of saxophone on the LP. The instrument brings out something delightful in each song it has a stake in–taking on glorious solos and intermittent off-key squeals to create a darker atmosphere. “A Home” comes up right after “The Silent Life” and begins with mold-shattering drum work from Jared Klein, who excels as a double bass pedal aficionado throughout this LP. “A Home” is one of the many highlights of the album with standout guitar, drum, vocal and bass work from every member of the band. The song also combines clean and rough vocals, reaching a new height for the band and expanding their repertoire even wider.
The guitar and bass solos on the track “Death is Real” are another highlight to Where Owls Know My Name. Towards the end of the song lie some of the most engaging guitar and bass work to come out of Rivers since they started producing music. Bassist Adam Biggs really shines on this track–and throughout the LP–as he brings a crisp bass-tone to every song, and perfectly complements the band’s highly commendable guitarwork.
The songs “Hollow,” “Subtle Change” and “Where Owls Know My Name” are also spectacular displays of musicianship in their own right. Each one has a uniquely eclectic approach and each one accomplishes vastly different goals to a tee. “Hollow” contains some of the fastest moving sections on the album, while “Subtle Change” is a full-on progressive epic, and “Where Owls Know My Name” takes the LP in a fresh direction through to its final few tracks.
Overall, Rivers of Nihil knock it out of the park on this new LP. Inching more and more towards progressive metal, this band evolved a great deal since their first works. With the incorporation of new instruments, new styles and clean vocals, the sky isn’t the limit for Rivers of Nihil–it’s just the beginning.