Monday, 16 November 2015

Rivers Of Nihil - "Monarchy" (Album Review)

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 21/08/2015
Label: Metal Blade Records



Tech death is a taste you develop over time, I reckon, as few would start with such a sub genre without a grounding in something at least similar. That said, for those people who wished to get into the genre, and who wanted to sample the best of what the genre has to offer, well, this record along with an early Atheist album would be a fine, fine place to start. High praise, but this record deserves it. It has everything which makes tech death great and offers a total listening experience to the casual or dedicated fan. A musical tour de force.


‘Monarch’ CD//DD track listing:

01 – “Heriless”
02 – “Perpetual Growth Machine”
03 – “Reign Of Dreams”
04 – “Sand Baptism”
05 – “Ancestral, I”
06 – “Dehydrate”
07 – “Monarchy”
08 – “Terrestria II: Thrive”
09 – “Circles In The Sky”
10 – “Suntold”

Rivers of Nihil is

Adam Biggs | Bass, vocals
Brody Uttley | guitars
Jake Dieffenbach | vocals
Alan Balamutt | Drums
Jon Topore | guitars

The Review:

US tech death: a genre that I have listened to a lot of recently. For some reason, its measured brutality has sound tracked many a commute as I have stared into the abyss of modern life. I am pleased to report that Rivers of Nihil's latest opus is another worthy entry into this particular sub genre's canon. After a nice musical intro, things kick off proper with “Perpetual Growth Machine running interesting variations of tempos, time feels and solos. The bass work of Adam Biggs is quite rampantly all over the fret board, while the synths add interesting texture to the record. 

The vocals are surprisingly discernible and this is an added bonus to what is a very strong offering. “Reign Of Dreams” offers up some very fast blasting indeed (kudos to Alan Balamut- I know how much practice this took bro!). Although this and other tracks are not massively lengthy (naturally, the closing track bucks this overall trend), the record fees progressive. The synths really do add something and lift the band to a more interesting sonic plain than some of their genre compatriots.

“Sand Baptism” has a superb opening and runs through all manner of riffs and tempos (the guitars are beastly, by the way). Conceptually, I think that there is a story being told here- or at least a theme. It appears to be in the art work also (which looks great) and is perhaps akin to something like “The Book Of Souls” Mayan obsession. To be honest, I don't have the lyrics and haven't listened enough to work out the exact story- but the imagery used and the lyrics I make out seem to point towards some kind of Mayan-esque society which deify the sun/and or their rulers as gods. Regardless, it is great that a sub genre band bother to do this. They have made a complete work and run a theme through its centre to unify it as one.

“Ancestral, I” is an exercise in brutal riffs and drums and features some crazed changes and lovely guitar interplay. “Dehydrate”, meanwhile, has an acoustic opening (and I love an acoustic opening!) before really blasting off. Again, background synths create a feeling of foreboding as the vocals arrive. Jake Dieffenbach's vocals again stand out as he enunciates well and creates some catchy lyrics here and there.

The title track's opening is positively dreamy and the drums take on a jazz (fusion, not trad) feel while the guitars of Brody Uttley and Jon cut with razor precision. This track is a tech death joy- taking you back to the feel of Atheist and Cynic in their prime. Fantastic stuff. Similarly “Terrestria II: Thrive” has a mellow and jazzy start before the band launch into an instrumental of pure musicality. The band are excellent players and show here that they can use dynamics, tempos, textures, solos and power to their advantage whenever it suits them. A great track.

“Circles In The Sky” is just as jazz infused and just as techy. Acoustics mix with chugging electric guitars here and the whole effect is fantastic. Again, the blasting sections here are very quick indeed, but they are used appropriately and the record never relies on pure brutality to get their point across.

“Suntold” closes this grand and ambitious record. Tech death is a taste you develop over time, I reckon, as few would start with such a sub genre without a grounding in something at least similar. That said, for those people who wished to get into the genre, and who wanted to sample the best of what the genre has to offer, well, this record along with an early Atheist album would be a fine, fine place to start. High praise, but this record deserves it. It has everything which makes tech death great and offers a total listening experience to the casual or dedicated fan. A musical tour de force.


‘Monarchy’ is available now

FFO: Fallujah, Decrepit Birth, Job For A Cowboy, Psycroptic

Band info: bandcamp | facebook

1 comment:

Bruce Jones said...

"Tech death is a taste you develop over time, I reckon, as few would start with such a sub genre without a grounding in something at least similar. That said, for those people who wished to get into the genre, and who wanted to sample the best of what the genre has to offer, well, this record along with an early Atheist album would be a fine, fine place to start."

Well put. It does take some getting used to. Releases such as this make it easier to appreciate some of the more challenging artists in this genre such as Goreguts. Once you learn to appreciates it, it is rather good...once in a while :)