By Matty Hume
CALGARY – Pay attention, because if you’re not already familiar with the wealth of talent known as Rivers of Nihil, you’re about to enter the ground floor of the next formative wave of technical death metal. That being said, you’d be remiss to lop the Pennsylvania goliaths into a standard genre box, and the band’s bass player and vocalist Adam Biggs will be the first to tell you that.
“It’s like, do you like Cannibal Corpse, and then also Pink Floyd? And do you want to listen to them at the same time? Then go ahead,” he says with way too much modesty.
Biggs is joined by Jake Dieffenbach on vocals, Jared Klein on drums, and Jon Topore and Brody Uttley both working magic on six strings. Hot of the success of the straight-ahead second death metal album Monarchy (2015, Metal Blade Records), Rivers of Nihil are keeping the headbangers and vibers on their toes with their latest feat of alchemy, Where Owls Know My Name (2018, Metal Blade Records). The critically acclaimed album is awash with saxphone, cello, and other unusual integrations, shifting seamlessly from technical death metal to something otherworldly. It’s a hugely unexpected divergence from the genre norm, and has propelled the band from opening set status to headliners since its release in March.
“I think that all the elements that all the people wanted to hear from us are still present in the record in pretty hefty supply,” Biggs says. “I just feel like we’ve added more nuance and musicality to it to make it feel more flushed out. I think it’s honestly the best representation of not only what we can do but what we wanted to sound like.”
That representation includes digital soundscapes crossing with soft vocals and speech samples, followed by viciously relentless guitar licks and double kick-drum heaven (or hell, whatever floats your boat). And before you can lose yourself in thunderous distortion, blues-reminiscent breakdowns usher in the saxophone solos and tempo changes you never knew you craved. It’s John Coltrane meets Belial, or a mutual friend of Deafheaven and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
“Previously, you could wrap our sound up like, ‘Oh, it’s a death metal band.’ Which is fine, but we enjoy much more music than death metal,” Biggs says. “And we like playing different music than death metal. So we figured why not make Rivers of Nihil a more fulfilling experience in that way.”
Fulfilling is a fitting word, because chances are, Where Owls Know My Name will satisfy your whole ethos from your patch-riddled jacket to the forgotten psychedelic corners of your mind.
It’s real good, folks.
Catch Rivers of Nihil with Alter Beast and Inferi at on July 10 at the Starlight Room (Edmonton) and on July 11 at Dickens Pub (Calgary)Alter Beast, Dickens Pub, Inferi, Rivers of Nihil, Starlight Room, Where Owls Know My Name