Few death metal bands have risen to prominence quite as fast as Reading, PA’s Rivers of Nihil. I stumbled upon them back in 2012 on Reverbnation, checked out their video for ‘(sin)chronus,’ and was blown away. Then came ‘Sea of Nuerons,’ ‘Chambers of Civility,’ ‘Epoch of Emptiness,’ and others from their 2009 EP “Hierarchy,” and 2011 EP “Temporality Unbound.” The band was obviously rough but had many good things going for them. The following year, Rivers of Nihil released their first full-length album, “The Conscious Seed of Light.” I reviewed it for this very site, and proclaimed it one of my favorite albums released that year. Since the release of “The Conscious Seed of Light,” Rivers of Nihil have toured with Death (DTA Tours), Obituary, Whitechapel, Dying Fetus, Black Crown Initiate, and appeared at the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival. During these tours, drummer Alan Balamut and guitarist Jon Topore joined guitarist Brody Uttley, bassist Adam Biggs, and vocalist Jake Dieffenbach. This quintet can be heard on Rivers of Nihil’s newest album, “Monarchy,” released August 21, 2015 via Metal Blade Records.
The seasonal concept that began with spring on “The Conscious Seed of Light” continues on “Monarchy,” this time focusing on summer. According to bassist Adam Biggs, this story takes place millions of years after the events in “The Conscious Seed of Light.” “The Earth has been transformed into a vast desert wasteland, where after eons of lifelessness, new beings begin to take shape and begin their journey as shepherds of the planet. However, after a while, a class system forms from a sun-worshiping religious dictatorship, and these beings start to lose their way. Only the guidance of an ancient earthly force can help them save themselves as well the planet.” he explains.
With this kind of back-story, the music had better deliver, and deliver it does. Rivers of Nihil hits a sweet spot between new Decapitated and old Morbid Angel. This is no doubt do to “The Conscious Stream of Light” producer Erik Rutan, and that sound carries over to “Monarchy.” The album is filled with bright, crushing guitar riffs, stunning leads, Dieffenbach’s bellowing voice, and a thundering rhythm section. How much tighter the band has become since the last record is incredible. The way that Uttley and Topore’s guitar riffs follow Bałamut’s double kick drums in unison during the flurries is spot on. The open, flowing passages breathe and swell, allowing Bigg’s complex bass licks to be more noticeable. ‘Perpetual Growth machine,’ ‘Sand Baptism,’ and the title track are some of the best examples of this. The final three tracks, ‘Terrestria II: Thrive,’ ‘Circles in the Sky,’ and ‘Suntold,’ are where the band stretch their boundaries the furthest. ‘Terrestria II: Thrive’ is a nearly six minute instrumental of some of the proggiest stuff Rivers of Nihil has done. ‘Circles in the Sky’ continues the push, but this time Dieffenbach joins in. The acoustic guitar that plays alongside the bass during Biggs’ solo really adds to the song. This bleeds into ‘Suntold,’ a mid-paced, punishing closer similar to ‘Airless’ on “The Conscious Seed of Light.” It puts a large exclamation point at the end of the album.
The amount of growth Rivers of Nihil have done in a short amount of time is astonishing. The well-deserved, high profile tours have obviously be a great help. They have honed themselves into a razor sharp, prog-tech-death weapon, ready to slay at any time. “Monarchy” is an easy repeater, and Rivers of Nihil will again be on my best of list this year.