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Rivers Of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name

On Spec 13, Borrowed Edition: Rivers Of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name

I borrowed this album off a co-worker. Based on our conversations about music, wherein I said I love metal but I don’t go for the Cookie Monster growling too often, he handed me his copy of this CD and swore I’d love it because it wasn’t all growly. Let’s find out!

Cancer/Moonspeak is a gentle, quiet intro that in no way gives indication that The Silent Life is anything but. The drums pound, the guitars chug, and the vocals growl and howl. There’s a beautiful breakdown in the middle of the track, right before the howling comes back and it gets a bit chaotic for a while before the main riff returns. Fascinating. Elsewhere, the instrumental Terrestria III: Wither starts off with synth stabs and acoustic guitars and becomes a punching heavy industrial swinger straight off a Terminator soundtrack. The title track hews closer to mainstream metal, but doesn’t let you forget the edge is never far and always calling you to the abyss. Perhaps my favourite track was the long-titled Subtle Change (Including The Forest Of Transition And Dissatisfaction Dance). It has all the same beautiful and heavy moments, but it also has prog freak-out sections that add levity. And it even has a saxophone solo. I know! It’s like five or six songs in one.

I could write up every track, but honestly the rest of the album pretty much goes the same way… it’s atmospheric, moody, and at times utterly beautiful, and all of it makes sense as it unfolds. It also has many, many times of being punishing, and heavy as fuck. The overall musicianship is superb. These guys are not messing around, and they’re not in it just for the crush. A lot of it reminded me of Isis, with perhaps a bit more focus in the songs (nothing over 8:34), and the songs are (often) a helluva lot busier. The vocals weren’t pure cleans, but there were times I could make out the words so it wasn’t full Cookie Monster either. I wish there had been times when he did sing strong and clean, some sections would have been ten times more powerful for it.

By the time these ten tracks are done, you truly do feel like you’ve been through the wars, wild-eyed and certain you’ve encountered both heaven and hell, and you’re bloody happy for the experience. I really enjoyed this album.

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