(Here’s Andy Synn’s review of the new album by Rivers of Nihil, which will be released by Metal Blade on March 16th.)
For all that we try to always pursue a positive approach to reviewing here at NCS, there’s still something to be said for maintaining a certain amount of critical distance from your subject. After all, there’s a surprisingly thin line preventing a positive critique from becoming what is, essentially, an unpaid press release and, if you’re not very careful, it’s easy to accidentally cross over from one to the other.
Case in point, if you’ve been paying attention to the profusion of hyperbole and half-baked philosophising which has preceded the release of this album you might well have come away with the impression that Where Owls Know My Name is something akin to a cross between the second coming of Jesus and the splitting of the atom.
And while it’s definitely a very good record, statements describing it as “a paradigm shift in Death Metal” or “a watershed moment in the history of the genre” have a tendency to come across as, at best, ingratiatingly insincere or, at worst, shamelessly sycophantic, and often say a lot more about the wilful ignorance or parochial listening habits of the writer than they do about the album itself.
But although the much-vaunted “new” elements on this album aren’t strictly “new” to Death/Extreme Metal – the use of saxophone may be uncommon, but it’s far from unheard of, while Rivers of Nihil are far from the first band to incorporate proggy clean vocals and atmospheric touches into their sound in this manner – what’s most important to focus on here is what these elements represent, which is a band clearly intent on pushing forward and evolving no matter what.