A saxophone in metal? Rivers of Nihil’s new album breaks ground

Rivil of Nihil vocalist Jake Dieffenbach (image courtesy of Flicker).

             Nick Hughes 

Opinion Editor

Progressive Death Metal band River of Nihil’s latest album, “Where Owls Know My Name,” is, in every sense of the word, unique. This is strange considering death metal is a music genre not known for innovation and unique musical style. Rivers of Nihil is a local band from Reading, Pennsylvania. The band released the full-length EP via Metal Blade Records on March 16.

The band describes the latest record on their Facebook page: “The band – now rounded out by guitarist Jon Topore and drummer Jared Klein – has delivered an album which is often just as punishing as its predecessors while assimilating ingredients from musical genres as varied as electronica, jazz, alternative, folk, and the golden age of Shrapnel Record.” The resulting music is indescribably progressive; a multifaceted soundscape that goes beyond the wildest dreams of even the group’s most ardent admirers.”

In layman’s terms, this album features some choices that one would not normally find in death metal. The obvious oddball in the album is the presence of a saxophone in multiple songs. It adds a Jazzy feel to the album and compliments the growling and screaming coming from lead singer, Jake Dieffenbach. Dieffenbach’s vocals are on point throughout the album and the pinnacle is during the title track, “Where The Owls Know My Name.”

Where the album really shines is its length. Normally this would not even be a thing brought up, but the album is a longer one, and the band keeps he entire album interesting and fresh. It never felt stale listening to it, and listening multiple times adds to the depth that the band worked so hard to create.

The prior two albums by Rivers of Nihil have been set thematically in the spring and the summer. “Where the Owls know my Name” is set thematically in the fall. The electronic parts, usually hated in technical death metal, somehow fit and add to the thematic flair that the band has produced in the album.

It is rich and satisfying to listen to the music that the band has put out. The pinnacle track is track number two, “The silent Life.” Not to say the whole album is not amazing, it just feels like the best track comes quick and the vibe that the album is set by this song.

There is an atmospheric vibe to the entire album in the background of each track that makes it hard to stop listening. The album has a Meshuggah feel to it that also feels elegant at the same time. It is punishing like a Cannibal Corpse record, but somehow feels like there is a Rhapsody influence in there. There are a lot of influences these guys must have grew up with to combine them all and still make a successful record.

The album is phenomenal and for the third album to be this good, it is easy to say that River of Nihil is just beginning a promising and successful career in the metal world. It is good to see that Pennsylvania is finally coming out with truly innovative and creative metal. Never thought there would be a saxophone in death metal, but it works and the fans are happy to see it working so well.

The album receives a 10/10 and there were more points on the scale it would be a 20/10. This album is near flawless for progressive death metal.