Album Review: RIVERS OF NIHIL – Where Owls Know My Name

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Rivers of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name

Label: Metal Blade

Release Date: March 16, 2018

Opening on a softer note, Where Owls Know My Name goads you in softly before slapping you in the face with a very familiar sound. I absolutely love the unique guitar tone and playing style Rivers of Nihil has cultivated over the last few records. It stands out clearly and distinctly from the rest of the pack. For me anyway, Adam Biggs’ bass work makes the overall sound complete. His awesome technique of mixing fingerstyle, tapping, and slap bass really create a unique soundscape that, again, I absolutely love.

On the tracks “The Silent Life and Subtle Change (Including The Forest of Transition),” the band seems to take a note from Cephalic Carnage by adding a little death metal saxophone. It’s definitely not something you hear very often, but when it is done right, wow is it an interesting sound. Who would have thought that you could make such brutal music sound so sexy? I’m not complaining in the slightest about this new element to the music.

Amidst the brutal chaos of the record comes very tastefully done breaks, a moment of respite for you to catch your breath and really feel the music on a deeper level. I’m a strong believer in that the occasional softer break in otherwise brutal music actually makes the overall sound heavier. It gives the sound much more depth and broadens the overall feeling, where the highs feel higher and the lows are even more heavy.

I think this album is a fantastic step in the right direction for Rivers of Nihil. You can honestly feel the band mature over the course of their last few albums as they’ve steadily gotten more complex and nuanced without sacrificing their original sound. Taking those artistic leaps can be very hit and miss, when it’s done right it can launch a band’s career, but sometimes it’s a step in the wrong direction, breaking careers. Thankfully, this is a great example of growing in the right direction.

Throughout the record, Jared Klein absolutely slaughters the kit. From pounding blasts to the more nuanced, subtle drum work on the slower parts, his work is tasteful and makes a solid, consistent backbone for the band to build off of.

Again, on “Subtle Change (Including The Forest of Transition),” the band breaks into a very soft moment, fading beautifully into the next track. “Terrestria III” is the third Terrestria instrumental track. The continuity between all three records is a very cool touch. It really ties the records together in a unique way.

If you look at the length of the tracks, one might think this album would be more sludgy and slow, with tracks breaking six to eight minutes long. Yet, the majority of the record is relentlessly aggressive. The band has developed a unique signature riff structure that I can’t get enough of. It’s bouncy and punchy while still being articulate and clear. Even though the songs are objectively lengthy, they fly by as you become so enamored and taken by the sound.

All in all, Where Owls Know My Name is a phenomenal record that is well worthy of all the praise it has received and more. Rivers of Nihil have grown into their talent perfectly and they really do raise the bar for what modern death metal should sound like. Production wise, as you might guess, everything is top notch. I couldn’t find a single bit that I didn’t like honestly. Even though it is only March, this record should go down as one best of the year. If you get the chance, go see them play it live. I was blown away last I saw them and look forward to seeing them again!

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