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RIVERS OF NIHIL's Brody Uttley: "The future of death metal is just going to continue getting more and more diverse. More bands are going to start genre blending in new ways and more people are going to accept and WANT those kinds of changes."

Added 06 March 2018, 7:09 PM
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Reading, Pennsylvania's RIVERS OF NIHIL are set to release their third album, titled "Where Owls Know My Name." This transcending new album has peaked more than a few heads in the Metal community, and to much critical acclaim so far. Metal Temple Editor-In-Chief Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell was fortunate to be able to speak with guitarist Brody Uttley about the album, some of the songs, signing to Metal Blade Records, some crazy road stories, and the band members themselves.

How did the band originally come together, and what was your vision for the band in those early days?

We formed back in 2009. Adam Biggs (our bassist) and I were in a thrash band together that fell apart while I was still in high school. After that band broke up the two of us got together with our singer Jake and our original guitarist and drummer who had recently disbanded their old group as well. We released two EPS between 2009 and 2012 and did a ton of DIY touring across the Midwest, south, and east coast of the United States. In 2012 we established contact with Metal Blade Records and signed with them late that year. The earliest visions of the band were just to play super fast and heavy death metal while being able to go on tour and have fun. To be able to go on tour for a solid week was a huge goal of ours initially since its so hard to book your own shows as an unknown band.

What were some of the challenges as a band formed in a mid-sized down in Pennsylvania?

I guess the fact that the metal scene in our area was so tiny could be considered a challenge, but honestly I think that its ultimately what ended up forcing us to go out and tour to reach new ears. Most of the bands from our area back then were in some form or another a member of certain “core” genres, so we always felt a little bit like the oddballs in town. Even though we played a lot of awesome shows in our hometown back then I don’t think that it was until we hit the road that we realized that there was a whole other world of people that are into this kind of music.

The new album, “Where Owls Know My Name” will be released in March. What are you most proud of about how it turned out? What can you tell us about the meaning of the title of the album, and some of the lyrical themes?


The thing that I am proudest of personally is just how different this record is than our last two releases while still managing to keep the record sounding like Rivers of Nihil. Many bands will either release the same album over and over again while other bands change their sound completely between records and totally lose their audience. I think the way we approached this record worked out really well in the end. There are so many different, strange, and new sounds on this record but so far everyone that has heard it has told me that it undoubtedly sounds like us, which makes me very happy.

Our first record “The Conscious Seed of Light” was a spring themed record while our second record “Monarchy” was summed themed. Conceptually Where Owls Know My Name is an autumn themed record that deals with topics such as growing older, reflecting on one’s life, death, and experiencing emotions such as fear, regret, nostalgia, and sadness. The title of the record is referring to a place where one can go to experience total isolation from the world; a place where only the nature that surrounds them is aware of their presence and they can silently reflect on their life.

Did you approach songwriting for the new album in any new or different way, and if so, how?

The writing process this time around was pretty similar to our last record. I spent the last year or so demoing out songs at my home studio, then sending those songs off to the other guys to get their opinions on what I had done. However, on this record as silly as it sounds I really tried NOT to try. Let me explain this… On both of our previous records a lot of the time I would go into a song with a specific vision in mind or try to make certain parts sound like other bands that have influenced me. This time around I really tried to not think about what I was doing. I kind of just let my hands wander around the fret board to see what came out. Pretty much every song on this record was written by just staying as relaxed as possible and not really worrying about conforming to any specific set of requirements. The results feel natural and personal to me, which I am very happy about.

Though I think you have already established yourselves firmly with your previous albums, I hear an evolution on the new album that goes to even new heights. The offerings are diverse and really cover a lot of territory. Three songs in particular really stuck out for me, though the entire album does not have a weak link. Can you talk about what went into the compositions of “Subtle Change,” “Hollow,” and the title track?

“Subtle Change…” was the last song that I wrote for the record. Going against what I said in the previous question, Adam Biggs and I both thought it would be fun to write a song that was just a really crazy sounding prog piece. We both grew up listening to bands like King Crimson, Yes, Pink Floyd, and early Genesis so “Subtle Change…” was kind of our modern metal take on that sort of sound. “Hollow” to me is actually one of the songs on the record that feels closest to something that would have been on our last record, but I can say that on that song I really wanted to make heavy use of the atmospheric side of our sound. “Hollow” is also the fastest song that we have ever written, clocking in at 260 beats per minute for any of the nerds out there that care! The title track is one of my favorite songs on the record and it features a guest vocal performance by our friend Andy Thomas from Black Crown Initiate. This song really ventures pretty far from the traditional death metal sound and contains some of the most beautiful passages that we’ve ever written. My good friend Zach Strouse made some killer saxophone contributions to that song and really took the whole thing to the next level.

What are your favorite songs on the album and why? Tell us about how you worked in some saxophone parts, and did I hear a muted trumpet/coronet as well?

Subtle Change, Terrestria III, Where Owls Know My Name, and Capricorn/Agoratopia are some of my favorites I would say. I talked about two of those songs in the last question but ill discuss the two that I didn’t already mention. Terrestria III is the third song in a four-part instrumental series that we’ve been doing on each record that are each based around the seasonal concept of the record as well as a recurring melody that the listeners can look for. This track features some super heavy industrial sounds as well as a cello that we ran through a guitar amp to create an insanely scary sounding texture. This song also features my buddy Sean Carter playing a muted trumpet in order to bring in some moody and melancholic “Blue in Green” type Miles Davis vibes. Capricorn/Agoratopia was actually the first song that was written for this record but for some reason I feel like it is the most relevant song to where we are as a band. That track features heavy use of the Mellotron Mk II and also has some super unique sounding vocal sounds that we have never tried out before. My friend Zach Strouse also closes out this song (and the record as a whole) with some solemn and subdued sounding sax parts that really sum up the overall mood of the entire record. Working with him was super natural feeling since he also plays guitar in a metal band and understands the genre. I would send him parts and he would construct leads over top of them and send them back to me. I’m really happy that he is on the record and I hope to get him playing live with us whenever he can.

What did signing to Metal Blade records do for the band?

I mean, it really just took everything to the next level for us. They’re super good people that have been nothing but helpful to us since day one. They’ve gotten us on some really great tours, provided us with amazing support, and offered great and HONEST advice whenever we have needed it. They feel more like a family to us than a label, and that’s how I think it should be.

What is life on the road (touring) really like? I think a lot of people envision big tour buses and fancy hotels, but I know most bands aren’t that fortunate.

Its definitely a hard grind that a lot of people have the wrong idea about. Sleep, food, money, free time, personal space, and silence are all things that we have learned to appreciate when we get them on tour. Being trapped in a van with four or five other guys for six weeks in the middle of the winter can get to be a real challenge to the human psyche, but its something that we all love to do because at the end of every day we get to play our music in front of other people. If I could sum up touring in an eleven syllables it would be this: Taco Bell Coffee Toilet Beer Exhaustion.

What have been some of your highlights touring in the past? Any fun or completely crazy stories you can share from these tours?

Finally getting to go to Europe was a pretty crazy experience for us. I think it was then that we all realized that this band might just be doing something that people are interested in. Also, getting to tour with Death to All was a pretty cool childhood fantasy moment. As for crazy tour stories I don’t know if we really have any. One time in Slovakia we found a kitten trapped in the wall of the building that we were sleeping in across from a door that said “Cat Killer” on it. We were all pretty freaked out by that and we kept the kitten with us all night just to be safe.

I am sure there are many, but can you think of one or two shows in particular that you felt best about or just had the best audience you can remember?

The first time we ever played in England was one of the most surreal experiences that I can remember. A sold out crowd was cheering our name as we were setting up our equipment, which had never happened before that. The crowd was just super into us that night and we had such a good time on that stage. I remember playing the first song of the night and just reflecting on the history of the band as we were up there doing our thing, and that all roads had led to that very moment. We had a similar experience later that month in the Czech Republic. I don’t know if those shows were necessarily our best sets but I think the fact that they were so far from home was what made them so special to me.

I know it’s early, but are there any details about a possible tour on the new album that you can share? Are there any bands in particular that you would love to tour with?

We are actually leaving for a five-week tour with Dying Fetus and Thy Art is Murder on March 15th of this year. As far as future tours there isn’t really anything that I can talk about at this point. Some of the bands that we would love to tour with would definitely include: Lamb of God, Mastodon, Gojira, Slipknot, Opeth, and Between the Buried and Me. Those bands are just the best at what they do.

What inspires you when you are composing music? Who are some of your biggest influences?

Inspiration is a hard thing to come by a lot of the time for me. For whatever reason it always seems to strike when I’m not really even trying to write something. Most of the time I’ll usually just be sitting at my desk messing around with my guitar when all of a sudden I just start writing. It seems like any time I actively try to write something it just doesn’t happen. Pink Floyd, Steven Wilson, Decapitated, Sigur Ros, Meshuggah, Cynic, King Crimson, This Will Destroy You, and Nine Inch Nails (among others) are bands that I always find myself looking back to when inspiration runs thin.

What do you guys do when you are not writing music and touring? Any special hobbies or interests?

Adam Biggs (our bassist) is a big time gamer and he’s always the dude that I look to if I need suggestions on what games I should be paying attention to. Jon Topore (our other guitarist) is into music production and more recently photography/video. Jake Dieffenbach (vocalist) is a big nature guy and can usually be found outside exploring the woods and riding his bike. Jared Klein (our drummer) is just a generally very musical dude and plays in many different bands in his area out west (hes from Nevada.) I think Jared and I are a lot alike in the sense that both of us don’t really have any interests outside of music or playing our respective instruments. Music production is something that interests me, but never really outside of applying it to Rivers of Nihil. I’ve recorded guitar and bass on our last two records which was really fun.

What is for you so special about the Metal community and your fans? How have you seen the genre evolve since its roots and where do you see it heading in the future?

I think our fans are awesome because they seem to always understand the curveballs that we throw at them. Pretty much any time we have tried out something new or done something that we were certain that people would hate or judge us for, they’ve been super stoked on it. So I think that our fans in particular are super hungry to see Rivers of Nihil grow and change. I think that fans of death metal in general are getting less rigid about what they define as being “acceptable” for the genre which is definitely a good thing if the genre is to continue moving forward. Much like a society I think its important that people realize that if there is to be any progress at all then there absolutely has to be a change in the collective consciousness of the masses. I think that in the future death metal is just going to continue getting more and more diverse. More bands are going to start genre blending in new ways and more people are going to accept and WANT those kinds of changes.



https://www.facebook.com/riversofnihil/
Edited 19 September 2018
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