I know I have only been writing about music for sites like ThisIsNotAScene since 2015, but for some bands you just run out of adjectives. Between the quality of their music and my emotional connection, some bands move past my ability to convey my appreciation in words. One of those bands is Rivers of Nihil. I’ve actually been familiar with them since before they put out their debut album, and have never been disappointed with their output. So again, on March 16, 2018, I have to struggle with finding the proper words to describe Rivers of Nihil’s latest album, Where Owls Know My Name, via Metal Blade Records.
Where Owls Know My Name continues the concept of the two previous albums, The Conscious Seed of Light and Monarchy, in that the theme is based around a season. Whereas Seed and Monarchy were thematically centered on spring and summer, respectively, Owls represents fall. Artist Dan Seagrave again has created the album cover for Owls, depicting a Swamp Thing like character in front of a moss-covered landscape reminiscent of the one that was barren on the cover of Monarchy. From following along with the lyrics, I would guess that this character is the one telling the story of Owls.
Even though Rivers of Nihil could have stayed with the same formula for their sound as they have done in their story concept, they instead found new ways to would push themselves and their sound to another level. Owls opens with the slow sunrise of ‘Cancer/Moonspeak’ that blends into the first full track/single, ‘The Silent Life.’ Even though drummer Jared Klein’s feet never stop pounding the kick drums, the steady chug of Brody Uttley and Jon Topore’s guitars makes it feel like the song is slowly taking you over, much like the mossy surroundings on the album cover. The two guitars also share their space with an ironically fitting saxophone solo, one smooth and one frenzied. This is followed by the next single, ‘Home.’ Here, among the chaotic thunder of guitar and drum riffs, floats just enough synth to keep things fresh. The keyboard again rises during the first solo break of ‘Subtle Change (Including the Forest of Transition and Dissatisfaction Dance),’ this time sounding more like a Hammond organ, but still fitting, along with another sax solo. Another carry over from Rivers’ previous albums is the instrumental ‘Terrestria.’ Owls gives us installment three ‘Terrestria III: Wither.’ More synth tones open the track, along with what might be a trumpet (?!?) before the pounding begins. The following two tracks, ‘Hollow’ and ‘Death is Real,’ continue the slow, steady beating. Between Adam Biggs’ bass runs and clean vocals, and more tasteful synths, each has its own pinch of progressiveness. The title track comes through almost like a combination of both its predecessors, but still stands on its own merit. Closer ‘Capricorn/Agoratopia’ calls back to the opening of Owls, opening with Jake Dieffenbach’s creepy whispered vocals. The song ebbs and flows into what I can only imagine is the sunset.
After listening to Where Owls Know My Name, I don’t have a new adjective, but a verb to describe Rivers of Nihil’s sound. That verb is engulfing. Rivers of Nihil’s music engulfs you in power, fury, groove, and melody. I don’t know how these guys got so good, so fast, but it’s awesome, and I’m glad I’ve been paying attention. This technical death metal band from Reading, PA has added progressive to their description, and it couldn’t have been done better. So, let the sound of Rivers of Nihil engulf you, it’ll be hard to come up for air.