Rivers of Nihil – “Monarchy” (Metal Blade Records)
If you like your death metal hoarse but classy then Rivers of Nihil is bound to float your boat. Formed only 6 years ago, things have come full circle for this Pennsylvania crew, who returned to home turf to record this dark n malevolent album! Partly cathartic in its inspiration particularly for guitarist Brody Uttley, who lost a lot of personal friends along the way, there is a definitely somberness that pervades the 10 tracks on this sophomore release. From the melancholy of its tranquil interludes like on the hugely atmospheric ‘Terrestria II: Thrive’ to the steam hammer aggression shown on ‘Dehydrated’ you can feel the sense of sadness but also frustrated rage which in short makes the material even more frightening than on the debut! That said, this isn’t a depressing album by any means, with that dark energy finding itself vented into the creative process with rich post rock melodies, lush layered songs blending in Jake Dieffenbach’s hoarse vocals with the machine gun precision double bass beats of new drummer Alan Balamut and of course, Uttley’s own whirring dervish solos no better reflected than in songs like ‘Sand Baptism’. “Monarchy” is clearly a big step for the band in every aspect from the technical compositions to cosmic concepts lyrically that have clearly had plenty of time vested in them, not to mention the band recording the guitars in Uttley’s home studio and then working with a local recording studio – something that would have many shocked in view of having previously worked with legendary Erik Rutan – but it all works thanks to the band trusting their instincts in what has turned out to be not just a stunner but a truly cutting edge album!