Rivers of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name Album Review


Rivers of Nihil return with what I dare say is the most dramatic, explorative, unique and harrowing record yet of their discography. Standing on their own with previous outstanding releases “The Conscious Seed of Light (2013) and Monarchy (2015), Rivers returns on March 16th, 2018 with an ominous and emotionally driven record sure to hit many top 10 lists by the end of 2018.

Opening with a somber intro track title ‘Cancer / Moonspeak’, a clean vocal track states “Fear drowns the mind, in this kingdom of mine”, tying to the thematic focus of this album leaning more toward “loss, getting older, and reaching a point where death becomes a much more present part of your life”, as explained by bassist Adam Biggs. Biggs goes on to lend a far more prominent and tasty arrangement of bass throughout the album, audible as more than just a backdrop but a central instrument alongside his sporadic clean vocals, another new and well done offering brought in with this album. ‘Where Owls Know My Name’ is yet another part of a story told by Rivers’ previous content, where the story picks up is explained to be “several millennia after the events of ‘Monarchy’, where one person still remains alive, chosen by the planet to be the sole intelligent witness of its ultimate fate. But ‘Where Owls Know My Name’ is less about overarching narrative than our previous albums. The scenario is just a backdrop for the more emotional material we tried to put forth this time around”, he continues, with the album pairing both heavy emotion and masterfully crafted punchy, razor sharp musicianship.

Leading up to release, Rivers released both a full guitar playthrough and a bass demonstration for the second single released, titled “A Home” on GearGods:

Introducing yet another layer previously unexplored so fervently, in between the atmospheric voiced riffing occassionally sings well balanced saxophone runs, adding that much more in place of feeling forced. The inclusion of saxophone, mellotron, organ, and a plethora of other instruments unusual to find associated with what most think as a tech death band really helps this album shine in not just a “unique for the sake of being unique” way, but creates a truly memorable and melodic offering of both melancholy and heavier than the Titanic riffing. With each time listening through, it seems a new layer of nuance can be found that almost changes the tone of the section entirely; for example, where I first heard a wall of sound buildup, later with a more focused listen, I found not only guitars building up, but a slight mellotron backdrop that changes the feel almost entirely.

Drummer Jared Klein simultaneously brings forth progressive beats and fills yet turns on a heel into thunderous high BPM blasting that pairs quite well with the fast or chunky, almost meshuggah-tonal riffing. I say this to contrast that this album is by no means a one trick pony, nor does it follow the same progressive, gradually softer path that a lot of technical bands tend to go down after a few releases. Where Owls Know My Name features a little something for everyone, highlighted best on the 8 and a half minute “Subtle Change (Including the Forest of Transition)”, weaving between jazzy and bordering eccentric progressive measures led by distorted bass and organ, to guitar solos, into straight death metal chugging. How Rivers manage to maintain a natural feel while balancing the multitude of voices is shown most prominently here; whereas the entire album does a hell of a job doing so for the duration.

Rivers of Nihil are hitting the road alongside Dying Fetus, Thy Art is Murder, Enterprise Earth, and Sanction starting 3/15, dates are as follows:

Mar. 15 – Poughkeepsie, NY @ The Chance
Mar. 16 – Rochester, NY @ Montage Music Hall
Mar. 17 – Cleveland, OH @ Agora
Mar. 18 – Toronto, ON @ Opera House
Mar. 20 – Pontiac, MI @ Crofoot
Mar. 21 – Joliet, IL @ The Forge
Mar. 22 – Minneapolis, MN @ Skyway
Mar. 23 – Merriam, KS @ Aftershock
Mar. 24 – Denver, CO @ Summit
Mar. 27 – Portland, OR @ Bossanova
Mar. 28 – Seattle, WA @ Studio Seven
Mar. 30 – San Jose, CA @ The Ritz
Mar. 31 – Pomona, CA @ Glasshouse
Apr. 1 – Phoenix, AZ @ Club Red
Apr. 3 – Tulsa, OK @ The Vanguard
Apr. 4 – Springfield, MO @ The Riff
Apr. 6 – Knoxville, TN @ International
Apr. 7 – Miami, FL @ The Ground
Apr. 8 – Tampa, FL @ Orpheum
Apr. 9 – Birmingham, AL @ Zydeco
Apr. 10 – Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade
Apr. 11 – Jacksonville, FL @ 1904
Apr. 13 – Houston, TX @ Come and Take It Live
Apr. 14 – Austin, TX @ Texas Independence Fest
Apr. 15 – Dallas, TX @ Gas Monkey Live
Apr. 17 – St. Louis, MO @ Ready Room
Apr. 18 – Columbus, OH @ Skully’s Music Diner
Apr. 19 – Allentown, PA @ One Centre Square
Apr. 20 – Worcester, MA @ New England Metal & Hardcore Fest
Apr. 21 – Asbury Park, NJ @ House of Independence
Apr. 22 – Amityville, NY @ Revolution

Rivers of Nihil have brought forth their most plentiful offering with Where Owls Know My Name, breaking new ground and doubling down on what previously won me and many others over. The new album / merch can be preordered HERE courtesy of Metalblade records.

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