(Austin Weber reviews the new album by a band we’ve been following since early days — Rivers of Nihil.)
While it’s only been two years since Rivers Of Nihil dropped their fantastic debut, The Conscious Seed Of Light, the band are already about to release their sophomore follow-up, Monarchy, at the end of August. It’s been interesting to see the band’s evolution from their more stripped-down beginnings to the truly top-shelf act they’ve become. After even a single listen to the record, it becomes clear that Monarchy is a big step up for their sound, achieving the potential that in some ways they only hinted at on The Conscious Seed Of Life — and I say that as someone who is a massive fan of their debut.
Their growth from then until now manifests itself in different ways, but arguably the biggest change is that the atmospheric quality present in “Mechanical Trees”, “Rain Eater” and “Airless” from the last record has become the direction the band have pursued throughout Monarchy. They have done this tastefully, overall adding an epic extra sheen to the music that contrasts well with whatever segment it’s paired with. Often it lends moments of pure esoteric beauty, not something you’d normally find in furious, technically-leaning death metal.
Which is another point about the record worth bringing up for fans — and for people who weren’t fans of the record as well. While The Conscious Seed Of Light offered up a number of more solidly technical death metal songs, free of the band’s atmospheric inclinations, you’ll find none of that here. And although my first spin of the record left me missing the diversity of having those types of songs mixed in with the more progressive-minded stuff, I get it now after a few spins. In merging the Meshuggah– and chug influence, the shred, and the atmospheric parts of their music into the synthesis you hear on Monarchy, it comes across more uniquely their own overall.
Pushing along with the fans-and-non-fans theme, I think it’s important to note for the people with whom The Conscious Seed Of Light didn’t click that the band sounds vastly different and improved on Monarchy, so I urge any of you in that camp to give this a chance.
In addition to the aforementioned enhanced atmospheric qualities woven into this record compared to the last, the band also further intertwine the groove-and-chug elements with their more technical and blasting death metal moments to excellent effect. From time to time, they do this in a way that reminds me of Allegaeon, on tracks such as “Ancestral, I”, “Monarchy”, and “Sand Baptism”. But the highlights of the album come when the atmospheric and progressive-minded ideas collide, giving us hauntingly beautiful moments such as the initial build and the mid-way celestial, rumbling, bass-and-lead heaven in “Circles In The Sky”. This is the pinnacle of the band’s union of atmospheric and progressive aims, and it shows what they are truly capable of.
The record includes many other moments like this throughout the record; that one just happens to be the most stunning of them, as well as my personal favorite. And lest I forget, Adam Biggs’ phenomenal bass playing gets more room in the mix on this record as compared to their last as well. He has become one of the best modern bass players around and his impact on this record’s quality is undeniable.
If Rivers Of Nihil had only released a record on par with the excellence of their debut, I’d still be hyped about it. Yet the massive, near-shocking evolution displayed throughout Monarchy proves that the band have grown considerably in two short years. Each track flows into the next in sublimely fitting fashion, a factor that really makes it a joy to hear from start to finish, as if it were all one big extended piece of music. As of this moment, Monarchy is my favorite death metal record of the year.
Monarchy will be released by Metal Blade and can be pre-ordered here.