REVIEW: RIVERS OF NIHIL – “Where Owls Know My Name”
This American death metal group formed around a decade ago have earned and cemented an exemplary reputation through their annihilating live shows as well as spectacular work on their albums. Rivers of Nihil have been dubbed “a mind-numbing force of modern death metal with a vivid darkness in the sound.” By none other than us at Metal Wani. The band has given us some promising records be it the 2013’s ‘The Conscious Seed of Light’ or 2015’s ‘Monarchy’. Will the third installment live up to the expectations? We look at their latest work – ‘Where Owls Know My Name’
While the band’s first two albums were thematically focused around the seasons of spring and summer respectively, this one revolves around the winds of winter (no GOT pun intended) and is focused around the season of Fall. The artwork is similar conceptually to the previous work but it does have a colder approach to it and is fitting to the season of choice. It takes its time to build up the atmosphere with ‘Cancer/Moonspeak’ giving us a chilling arctic riff accompanied by Jake Dieffenbach’s vocals and then comes crashing down with ‘The Silent Life’. I like the fact that through the album you have a very heavy overall sound without the instruments crowing up each other’s space. The riffs are simple yet manage to work well with Klien’s machine-gun double bass. There is a symphonic essence in the background and it gives the songs a layer of melody. But the highlight in the songs is saxophone. It not only works well in the mix but it transforms the music beyond expectations and serves as the primary lead instrument in songs like ‘Subtle Change Including the Forest of Transition and Dissatisfaction Dance’ where the second half of the song is an absolute rush. Brody & Topore put on some blistering riffs and soulful solos and Biggs adds more melodic layers with some intricate bass lines.
Songs like ‘A Home’ & ‘Hollow’ play around with progressive elements and twisted patterns and ‘Terrestria III: Wither’ even dares to delve into some electronic. The record not only shows its colorfully melodic side but also paints with a grimmer palette in numbers like ‘Death is Real’. The title song of the album ‘Where Owls Know my Name’ is probably one of the best songs I have heard in a while. It’s a perfect amalgamation of heavy, death metal elements along with progressive melody. Be it heavy riffs, ripping solos, manic drumming or soulful sax and melodic acoustics; this track has it all.
I have heard many bands delve into the experimental phase and use a plethora of instruments in songs, in many ways the crowded and slightly saturated world of metal sort of demands it in order to be new these days. This often results in either an out of place melody, or a crowded tone. This band is among the few that finds a perfect balance of heavy and melodic and adds the right amount of experimentation and content. There isn’t a song I can say that I dislike. The production is top notch and fault finding on this record would be more of nit-picking rather than actual flaw. I think they’ve knocked it out of the park with the album. It celebrates the sheer potential and range of metal music. It’s a statement to claims of the genre being “noise” and an absolute cracker to claims of “not heavy enough these days”. Rest your opinions folks! The album shatters all expectations and I reckon will be a contender for one of the best albums in the year landing the group to the top of the heap in the world of metal.
‘Where Owls Know My Name’ is a landmark record in the metal timeline. It is an exhibition of pure talent, exemplary song writing and a celebration of the sheer range, diversity and spirit of what metal really is. Rivers of Nihil have cemented their reputation of being a spectacular metal act, and the world will know their name!