Rivers of Nihil
Monarchy

“Heirless” is the perfect intro for this album. Equal parts foreboding, dissonant, and soothsaying; it encapsulates what is about to occur during the play through of Monarchy; Rivers of Nihil’s second album. On this sophmore release, this Reading, PA band have expanded upon the ability to tell a story, craft a memorably technical song, and blur a myriad of styles into a cohesive whole. It’s an album that excels in its muscianship on all fronts while playing to the strengths of the songs themselves. It’s also is the second chapter in an elemental theme of albums. Wholly in worship of the sun, the desert, the heat, and the blistering tone of an ever impressive guitar tone.

This album carries with it the oppressive nature of Behemoth paired with the progressive death aspects of Decrepit Birth; a sonically devestating octopus with it’s limitless limbs latching onto meaty hooks of rhythm, technicality, and precision whilst lashing out at the aural caves of it’s many listeners. A relentless evolution  permeates “Perpetual Growth Machine” as it shifts between it’s constantly progressing guitar/rhythm with an almost lurching “chorus” that exemplifies the effect of a vocal hook. The speed they achieve on “Reign of Dreams” is betraying almost to the catchiness that is attained. It’s borderline groove/thrash in presentation. Jake Dieffenbach (vocals) has an almost hardcore-like bark that fits perfect with the music. It’s neither too guttural nor are the lyrics completely indiscernable. There’s an enunciation that recalls Randy Blythe but with a little more of a mid range bellow. And holy shit those guitars. I can’t get over how impressed I am on this album by the technicality, smooth transitions, speed, groove….. everything about them is unfuckwithable.

Brody Uttley (lead guitar) is a solo monster; they are never overwrought nor are they without merit. I’m a sucker for a solo so I have been thoroughly impressed with Monarchy in that regard. Jon Topore (guitar) compliments in every way possible. A crunchy, groovy tone that runs in tandem with not only the lead but also the bass. There’s also an atmospheric hum that recalls Fallujah’s latest release that is created at times which helps make the songs a little more livelier than most. It’s a cohesive unit that can easily stand with the best out there and easily give any of them a run for their money.

Let’s talk about that bass too. There’s bass for days. I am always a sucker for a bass tone that is not only heard but also prevalent. When a bass player isn’t just a rhythm keeper but also an important aspect to the construction of a song….then a band has my utmost respect. Adam Biggs’ bass presence is very much in step with the plethora of technical death metal bands that exist these days but there’s a softness, a gentle groove….a justification of soul that lends these songs creedence and life. Not only that but he provides backup growls that add to the vocal delivery in a way that creates a sort of hellish choir at times. A little lower than Jake’s delivery but very complimentary. Alan Balamut (drums) compliements every aspect of this band while being a beast unto himself. It’s amazing to hear a drummer so keen on rhythm and technicality. Creating speed when it’s unexpected, adding jazzy fills and flairs on quieter parts that balance tonality and effect; his playing alone is reason enough to get this album. Combine it with the four other parts of this band and you have an unequivocal monster that begs to be heard almost constantly. One only needs to listen to “Sand Baptism” or “Monarcy” to really grasp this band at it’s best. Equal parts speed, groove, atmosphere, and technicality. Both songs exemplify Rivers of Nihil while at the same time are only an aspect to Monarchy as a whole.

The playing time on this album is close to 50 minutes but it’s so entrancing that one hardly realizes that almost an hour has gone by. This album is exceptional in every way and I can’t recommend it enough. If you like your death metal with a mid range vocalist, guitarists that shred hard/fast/all day, a bass player that would make Jaco Pastorious proud, and a drummer that makes an octopus look lazy, then please do yourself a favour and pick this album up. It is so damn amazing that it is hard to put into words that could do it justice. 2015 has been a grand year for metal and this only makes it stronger.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Chris S
September 3rd, 2015

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