By Brandon “B-Mac” McCarthy
If there is one thing metalheads can agree on, it is that Metal Blade Records has produced some intense metal records over the years. They have an array of artists under their banner, ranging from black metal to thrash, doom, and death metal. Death metal is a fascinating creature, and one of the most brutal forms of music today. From the abrupt tempo, aggressive drumming, and rapid picking to its songs that explore the subjects of religion, the occult, and politics, I feel a person needs to have special ears to endure this pulsating genre. One of the newest groups to have broken ground in this field, Rivers of Nihil, is looking to revolutionize it further. The quintet band from Reading, Penn., is already 2 albums in, and looks to explore more horizons with their newest creation, Where Owls Know My Name. This is the first time I have heard of them, so I am about to journey into the unknown.
Rivers of Nihil is a group that has been dubbed as a “forward-thinking” metal group. I could definitely hear just that in this record. It starts off slow and ominous with “Cancer/Moonspeak.” Vocalist Jake Dieffenbach is soft spoken and torturous at first, but as soon as it goes into “The Silent Life,” the aggression picks up. Dieffenbach is a fierce growler, who has the drive and guttural voice that make this album a vicious one. He can also scream with insane passion. What is most impressive is the double bass kicks played intensely, by drummer Jared Klein. He is an aggressive force behind the kit. Guitarists Brody Uttley and Jon Topore bring in some harmonious riffs and licks that are both swift and extreme. The solos are wickedly insane, particularly on “A Home.” Bassist Adam Briggs walks all over his instrument, mud stomping the chords with distortion.
On the previous two albums, they centered on the seasons of spring (Seed) and summer (Monarchy). So, naturally, this album represents the fall. As much as this album sounds sinister, there is beauty found in the darkness. Rivers of Nihil view fall as a season of rebirth more than a season associated with death. I can see where the analogy comes in with the music. Where Owls Know My Name features the group immersing themselves into a variety of genres with their death metal sound. I hear hints of electronica, jazz, folk, and alternative rock mixing in these songs extremely well. The songs are much more cutting edge when integrating with other types of music, which I hear in “Old Nothing,” “Hollow,” “Subtle Change (Including the Forest of Transition),” and the titled-track. “The Silent Life” and “Subtle Change” features a saxophone solo that gives each tune a more soulful approach. They bring us home with the eerie “Capricorn/Agoratopia,” which you hear Dieffenbach return to his harrowing ways, while retching out his yells. It is a haunting end to a stunning album.
Now I believe them when they say that they are forward thinking. I listen to this album, and I hear Rivers of Nihil at the creative peak. They are filled ambition and held nothing back on this LP. Granted, I have yet to hear the first 2 records, but I will. Death metal is witnessing a resurrection with Where Owls Know My Name. They are on the road with Dying Fetus and Thy Art is Murder, spreading their genius to the masses. I definitely rank it as one of my favorite albums of 2018 thus far. To Rivers of Nihil, I salute you. Horns up!!!! 9.5/10
01. Cancer / Moonspeak
02. The Silent Life
03. A Home
04. Old Nothing
05. Subtle Change (Including the Forest of Transition and Dissatisfaction Dance)
06. Terrestria III: Wither
08. Death Is Real
09. Where Owls Know My Name
10. Capricorn / Agoratopia
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