Album Review: Rivers of Nihil – The Work (Metal Blade Records)

On September 24th, 2021, progressive/technical death metal beasts, Rivers of Nihil will release their fourth full-length album, The Work, via Metal Blade Records.

Having really hit their stride with 2018’s Where the Owls Know My Name, expectation is a little higher for Rivers of Nihil to deliver another slice of outstanding heavy metal. If they were feeling any pressure it’s certainly not coming through on this new album.

The Work might very well be the high point of Rivers of Nihil’s musical career to date. An 11-track album that proudly acknowledges where the band has come from but showcases wondrous progression too. The melancholic melody, dominated by a piano and clean, echoing vocals on opener The Tower (Theme from The Work), has a cinematic taste. It draws you in, comforts you before turning into a concentrated slab of meaningful aggression with an expulsion of rigid heaviness.

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Fading out softly but uncomfortably, Rivers of Nihil transition into the sharp and penetrating Dreaming Black Clockwork. The weight of the instrumentation is neck-breaking and back-crushing but the eerie and avant-garde switch up is what really stands out. Simply because it comes across as a moment of madness. Although the deepening fuzzy feedback, pained roars and mesh of noise that serves as the outro to the song is pretty insane too.

Slightly relaxing, a little bit psychedelic and quite melodic is the lovely Wait. Where the uptick in tempo gives it a grander sound. Focus then follows that with an attack of methodical and rhythm heaviness. A track that always seems to be on the cusp of causing deeper pain and suffering but holds back for a more ‘focused’ mugging.

There’s nothing sparkling about Clean as Rivers of Nihil move from hefty brutality to dark and cold downshifts to bursts of in-your-face death metal speed to mind-altering synth. As imaginative a track as anything Rivers of Nihil have ever done. Although The Void from Which No Sound Escapes is certainly no slouch either, thanks in part to its featured saxophone solo.

Having blasted the mind with an incredible amount of variety and uniqueness, Rivers of Nihil scale it back a bit for the blast of ferocious tech-death with MORE? Before the opportunity to take a breather is given with the short melodic interlude of Tower 2. A continuation of the opening track.

Enjoy that deep breath as the final portion of the album has Rivers of Nihil getting longer, stranger and more and more complex. Beginning with two tracks that pass the 7-minute mark; Episode and Maybe One Day.

The former is a track dripping in dark atmosphere. The melodic mist drifting in and hidden within, all manner of beasts. Some gargantuan and stompy, some warped and gnarled, and some with a bloodlust that can only be sated by the powerful instrumentation on show here. The latter, delivering an epic heavy soundscape to keep the mind focused exactly where it should be, on what comes next. A track that is one of Rivers of Nihil’s most fanciful and pretty tracks.

It’s not quite over yet though. The finale, Terrestria IV: Work is 11 and a half minutes long. Where complex death metal arrangements and heart-racing speed meet cinematic grandness. An exhaustive trawl through the minds of this band. Also, the sax is back!

Rivers of Nihil – The Work Full Track Listing:

1. The Tower (Theme from The Work)
2. Dreaming Black Clockwork
3. Wait
4. Focus
5. Clean
6. The Void from Which No Sound Escapes
7. MORE?
8. Tower 2
9. Episode
10. Maybe One Day
11. Terrestria IV: Work




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Rivers of Nihil - The Work (Metal Blade Records)
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