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River Black - River Black

River Black
River Black
by James Peterson at 30 October 2017, 12:38 PM

When the press release for an album tells you that it involves current members from bands that are, at this point, household names in REVOCATION and MUNICIPAL WASTE (and these members are comprising the rhythm section of the band at that), you get the feeling you’re about to be in for something wild, raucous and downright fuckin’ heavy.  Thankfully, that is one hundred percent what RIVER BLACK deliver on their self-titled full length offering, out this year on Season of Mist.  The album doesn’t clock in at a particularly long run time, but most albums in this hardcore-influenced metal style don’t need to be long.  They need to be direct, abrasive, and to the point. And that’s exactly what you’re getting here.

Seriously.  There isn’t any kind of an intro, as “Jaws” just hurls you straight into the action, with the entire band and vocals kicking in with full intensity.  Mid-ranged screams that may turn off some (but didn’t bother me) and groovy riffs weave in and out with a few blast beats, and the band isn’t afraid to keep things dynamic by having some slower passages, holding out chords and letting the songs breathe a touch of atmosphere here and there.  The songs are, therefore, constructed in a musically satisfying manner.  There’s a number of interesting playing techniques in play on the instruments here, amidst your standard death thrash riffing and battering styles: John Adubato’s own approach to grooves, bends and slides with how it interplays to Dave White’s drum rhythms truly teeters on the edge of chaos in parts of the songs “Honor” and “Shipwreck.”

If you’re not paying attention to the track lengths while listening, the eponymous track may come as a huge shock.  An interlude with classical string instruments, it can make listeners who have heard “Colored Sands” by dissonant extreme metal veterans GORGUTS think back to how “The Battle of Chamdo” offered a change of pace on that record.  It’s an effective transition in RIVER BLACK as well, and leads into a really good song, “South x South”, which features a more dynamic, snarling vocal performance than the preceding songs.  The strings come back while the heaviness continues in a big highlight moment, playing a progression of minor, augmented and major seventh chords.  This gives the end of this track a complex expressive feel that is very pretty while at the same time tinged with an alien sort of darkness. Things get heavier again when the OSDM-sounding, almost OBITUARY-esque song “Boat” gets going, and by the time you’re in the meat of “Move” it becomes apparent that a lot of this band’s most effective riffs are the ones that just involve basic power chords, either in grooves or really chunky straightforward rhythms.

The only song that I really didn’t care for here is “#Victim.”  The riffs just feel… awkward with the rhythms and note choice.  When the second riff hits at about 45 seconds, there’s a back and forth rhythmical shift as the drums cut in and out, and it sounds like they’re changing tempos randomly every couple of measures, when they actually aren’t.   The song really took me out of the ride of the intensity of the album, as it continues with these choppy/awkward rhythms for most of its runtime.

The album gets back on track with “Haunt,” which starts off a bit rough but hits you with an deliciously sick groove riff a minute in followed by (for lack of a better term) haunting clean vocals that remind me of Brann Dailor’s from the world-famous band from my home state of Georgia, MASTODON.  The last two tracks on the record are definitely the heaviest, as they evoke the aforementioned Quebecois band in terms of the brutal riffing, but it’s not nearly as dissonant here. The intro to closer “Everywhere” is very heavy, but the following riff and doomy outro are even greater… two of the sickest parts of the album.

To touch on the production, it has a bit of a rough sound, but everything still comes through pretty clearly in the mix.  For the style especially, the volume levels of all the instruments are in the right place.  I tend to prefer guitars and bass a little louder  - the drums are slightly above where I might set them, but in this context the mix works.  Drums are extremely important in hardcore metal, after all, lest we forget that part I referred to in “#Victim,” or the now almost infamous video of 25 TA LIFE, performing without a drummer (which has basically become a meme in the metal community). All in all, RIVER BLACK on their self-titled collection manage to be incredibly consistent whilst most of the pieces still have their own unique flavor to offer, which is always something to look for in a quality record.

Songwriting: 8
Originality: 6
Memorability: 6
Production: 7

3 Star Rating

1. Jaws
2. Honor
3. Low
4. Shipwreck
5. River Black
6. South x South
7. Boat
8. Move
9. #Victim
10. Haunt
11. Sink
12. Everywhere
Mike Olender - Vocals
John Adubato - Guitar
Brett Bamberger - Bass
Dave Witte – Drums
Record Label: Season of Mist Records


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