Genre: all your favorite kinds of death metal rolled into one
Location: Reading, PA
Rivers of Nihil are a five-piece technical death metal band from Reading, Pennsylvania; and The Conscious Seed of Light is their debut full length through Metal Blade Records. Influenced by technical and brutal death metal bands like Nile, Incantation, Spawn of Possession, and Decapitated, they play an extremely heavy and unstoppably aggressive style of death metal that has been pretty much dead in 2013, aside from that awesome Gorguts release. But, not only will they shred your ears to pieces, but they do it with intensive technical detail, crushingly huge atmospheres, and even a clean passage here and there.
Right from the beginning, Rivers of Nihil make it blatantly apparent that they aren’t here to fool around with any bullshit. No punches are pulled, and The Conscious Seed of Light becomes a straight-up behemoth, with enough diversity to keep things fresh and interesting, but enough pure speed and brutality to remind the listener that these guys aren’t here just to show off their exceptional musicianship, they’re here to send their message as powerfully as sonically possible. The record’s artwork (A+++ work from Dan Seagrave, by the way) is a perfect indicator of the band’s apparent musical and lyrical goals: a landscape of manmade’s inevitable ruin through which nature will overcome and shine. There’s a lot of emotions explored here too, whether it’s doom (slower passages comparable to doom-influenced New York death metal bands Incantation or Immolation), sadness (cleaner, progressive parts, or even melodic parts like At the Gates or Dark Tranquility), anger (unbridled speed and crushing soundscapes like those of Nile, Morbid Angel, or Suffocation) or anything in between.
Musically, the band is just as compelling, offering one of the most dizzyingly dynamic efforts I’ve heard out of the genre in years. I mean that in the best way possible: the songs move in all sorts of crazy directions at breakneck speed; with tempos changing and awesome transitions all over the place, I found myself at the edge of my seat as I was following the guitar work and drums throughout each of my many full listens. That said, the vocals might be pretty easy to complain about given their relative monotony compared to the rest of the music. It’s true that they’re pretty stagnant, but they definitely pack a powerful punch.
Overall, I think all of these awesome tendencies of the band on this record points to one general characteristic that I love the most: they aren’t trying to follow any trends or to impress anyone in particular. They don’t even need to try, either. I see bands all the time bending over backwards to pass themselves off as “progressive” or “technical,” or even just “brutal.” Rivers of Nihil don’t compromise anything, and accomplish all of these and more with what seems to be such an all-around natural, bare-boned effort in The Conscious Seed of Light. This record has definitely been my biggest surprise of 2013 so far, and I cannot wait to hear more from them. Catch them on tour with Beneath the Massacre, Rings of Saturn, and Legion this October!