Album Review: RIVERS OF NIHIL Where Owls Know My Name
Every year we get loads of new death metal from across all its forms; whether its technical, brutal, melodic, deathcore, or what have you; the genre has plenty of bands to keep you occupied for two lifetimes. It’s among these bands that we find the few that are sincerely unique, stepping outside of the genre's formulaic conventions. All things considered, I’m proud to say that Rivers of Nihil’s Where Owls Know My Name—out this week on Metal Blade—just so happens to be one of those releases.
Where Owls Know My Name isn’t just a minor change for the band, but a drastic step forward in progression and talent. While fans will find plenty of elements from previous Rivers of Nihil albums, they’ll be heavily surprised with the many twists that appear throughout the record. Part of this is shifting song structure, fluctuating emotional tone, and various uses of other musical genres. While Rivers of Nihil maintain a consistent technical death metal core, they also introduce blends of jazz, alternative, acoustic, and electronica into their work.
"Cancer / Moonspeak” sets the tone for a journey to come. The instrumental component to the track, along with its minimal vocals, bring forth this melancholic aura. The guitar rhythm of “The Silent Life” churns out touches of melody alongside waves of blast beats. The track pops with streaks of woe behind vocal growls. There’s also the introduction of saxophone that, when playing alongside the guitar inflections, embodies a shade of emotional coldness.
“A Home” takes on this semi-rock approach initially, lasting for a few seconds before blazing into a flurry of melodic explosions. The guitar and drum work constantly shifts in speed and sound, the instrumentation never clashing together. “Old Nothing” undoubtedly assaults eardrums with insane drumming and shredding. The song offers range in musical tone and style, presenting a blend of emotion that builds and entwines throughout the runtime.
Brody Uttley and Jon Topore (guitars), along with Jared Klein (drums) and Adam Biggs (bass/vocals) incorporate superb technicality into the work. Musical elements find themselves constantly evolving as the record progresses. This is thanks to the various uses of tempo, a blending of genres and style, and song structure. Jake Dieffenbach (vocals) brings an additional layer of aggression to the album, cranking up the energy alongside the instruments.
“Subtle Change (Including the Forest of Transition)”, while holding onto that death metal center, offers a handful of surprises that are extravagant. The saxophone provides a physical feeling to the material (as if one can see leaves dancing in the wind.) Acoustic guitars weave their way into parts of the song, laying down the foundation for beautifully somber intrigue. Towards the end, the guitar lets loose with a magnificent whirlwind of melody, resulting in a grand solo. The self-titled track is one of the standout titles on the album, offering various uses of style and song composition. The song puts everything together from the record to this point, and it presents this wondrous blend of brutality and emotion.
Where Owls Know My Name is not only a fresh breath of air for death metal but metal in general. The record promises extravagant technicality that is fascinating and entertaining. Rivers of Nihil have not only offered an excellent record, but have also raised the bar for death metal.