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Rivers of Nihil – The Work Award winner

Rivers of Nihil
The Work
by Alex Barnard at 01 October 2021, 8:52 AM

RIVERS OF NIHIL is a Progressive Death Metal band from Reading, PA. “The Work” is the group’s fourth full-length album, released by Metal Blade Records on September 24, 2021.

A bit of a personal note: I discovered RIVERS OF NIHIL completely by accident. In October of 2019, I turned 21 years old. To celebrate, I decided I wanted to go to a proper Metal show for the first time. At that point, my concert going experiences had been minimal, with the heaviest band I had seen until then being KISS. I’d just heard of Saint Vitus, the famous Metal bar in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and thought it would be fun to go on my birthday.

I checked the Saint Vitus website, and the headlining band playing on my birthday was FIT FOR AN AUTOPSY, a group I had just recently been introduced to by some friends from college. Opening for them were MATRICIDE, LORNA SHORE, and RIVERS OF NIHIL, none of whom had I heard of until that point (LORNA SHORE excluded – I knew the name, but I’d never listened to the group’s music). FIT FOR AN AUTOPSY was kicking off the tour for its then-new album, “The Sea of Tragic Beasts,” at that show. I thought, “Oh, this is perfect! I dig FIT FOR AN AUTOPSY, so why don’t I go? Who cares if I don’t know these other acts?”

So I bought two tickets, one of which I gave to my 26-year-old cousin who is not a Metalhead at all. It didn’t take much to convince him to go, though, as he is always down to try something new. We got to the bar in the middle of LORNA SHORE’s set, which was pretty good but not really my thing. We each got a beer and watched from the back. After LORNA SHORE’s set, RIVERS OF NIHIL took the stage. At that point, the band was still in the middle of the “Where Owls Know My Name” touring cycle.

Now, when I say my cousin and I were floored by what we saw from RIVERS OF NIHIL at that show, I really mean it. The band was unbelievable; everyone played their hearts out, and out of all the front men at that show, Jake Dieffenbach had the most commanding presence. Plus, a saxophone at a Metal show – and it works?!? I immediately bought a copy of “Where Owls Know My Name,” and instantly became a fan of the band. To this day, that album remains one of my all-time favorites, and was definitely the best metal album I had heard that year.

Now, onto the actual review. Of course, it goes without saying that the band’s musicianship is as tight as ever on “The Work.” Jake Dieffenbach continues to have one of the best Death Metal growls out there. Brody Uttley and Jon Topore make an incredible guitar duo, with Uttley’s solos being among the many highlights of any RIVERS OF NIHIL record. Adam Biggs’ bass playing is phenomenal, but I was really happy to hear that, on this album, he took on more lead vocal duties. His Marilyn Manson-like melodic drawl and nasty Black Metal snarl are the perfect complements to Dieffenbach’s devastating growls. Last but not least, Jared Klein’s drumming abilities are otherworldly.

One of the most interesting aspects of this album is that the band seems to have gone whole hog on the Progressive elements that they had started incorporating on “Where Owls Know My Name,” to the point where some of the songs on this album can barely be considered Metal. Perhaps the best example of this is the song “Wait.” If it weren’t for Dieffenbach’s death growls poking through towards the end of the track, I would've guessed it was a PINK FLOYD song! The instrumental layers on the song are amazing and the melodies are incredibly catchy, showing a different side of the band that I never thought I would see.

Of course, the album does not lack bangers. “Focus” has my favorite riffs on the whole record, and Dieffenbach’s military-like presence courses through the track like heroin through a junkie’s veins. “Dreaming Black Clockwork” and “Clean” are other incredibly heavy numbers, and “MORE?” actually seems to be a bit of a throwback to the works on the band’s first two albums, i.e. good old-fashioned Technical Death Metal.

Other highlights from this album include “Episode,” which has a solo in it that, in my opinion, is Brody Uttley’s “Comfortably Numb” moment; “The Void from Which No Sound Escapes,” which, aside from having a fantastic title, is a musical journey that you just can’t miss; “Maybe One Day,” which is another beautiful, non-Metal track; and “Terrestria IV: Work,” a continuation of the “Terrestria” series from previous RIVERS OF NIHIL albums, and perhaps the best instalment in that series yet.

My overall assessment is, if “Where Owls Know My Name” is RIVERS OF NIHIL’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” then “The Work” is the equivalent to “Wish You Were Here.” The band has created a sound that’s like no other in the Progressive Death Metal subgenre, and every aspect of this album reinforces the fact that it is, without a doubt, a masterpiece. I can't wait to see these guys on tour again, and here’s hoping the next RIVERS OF NIHIL album is the group’s “Animals” – which, as any pretentious PINK FLOYD fan will tell you, was PINK FLOYD’s best album.

Musicianship: 10
Production: 10
Songwriting: 10
Memorability: 10


5 Star Rating

1. The Tower (Theme from "The Work")
2. Dreaming Black Clockwork
3. Wait
4. Focus
5. Clean
6. The Void from Which No Sound Escapes
7. MORE?
8. Tower 2
9. Episode
10. Maybe One Day
11. Terrestria IV: Work
Jake Dieffenbach – lead vocals
Brody Uttley – lead guitar, keyboards, programming
Adam Biggs – bass, backing vocals
Jon Topore – rhythm guitar
Jared Klein – drums, backing vocals
Record Label: Metal Blade Records


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