Sax Ap­peal

Exclaim! - - REVIEWS - DANIELA CAMPOS MAX MORIN CHRIS GEE

DEATH METAL

Where Owls Know My Name Penn­syl­va­nia-based pro­gres­sive met­allers Rivers of Ni­hil have thrown pre­dictabil­ity to the wind on their third al­bum. Meld­ing artsy, me­an­der­ing sax­o­phone with crush­ing death metal, the band have come up with a star­tling gift that might be one of the most es­sen­tial metal re­leases of this year. It’s like King Crim­son have kicked down the door at a Be­he­moth con­cert, and are show­ing these kids how real chaos is done. Jazzy over­tones soothe the fury of “The Silent Life,” while rhyth­mic key­board so­los fly on “Sub­tle Change (In­clud­ing the For­est of Tran­si­tion and Dis­sat­is­fac­tion Dance).” But it’s the Tool-like melodies of the ti­tle track that will have prog fans scream­ing for more.

Rivers of Ni­hil still write above-av­er­age death metal, but it’s when they stray from this for­mula that their true po­ten­tial is re­vealed. Jake Di­ef­fen­bach and Adam Biggs’ vo­cal har­monies are a wel­come ad­di­tion, one that was miss­ing from the band’s pre­vi­ous re­leases. Com­bined with a huge range of in­flu­ences (check out the in­dus­trial squall of “Ter­res­tria

ev­ery thought pos­si­ble, sto­ry­telling to make lis­ten­ers aware that he strug­gles too, pos­si­bly with things he can’t seem to es­cape from. His hon­esty and melodic, calm­ing cho­ruses and singing are for those who want to hear some­thing real. (Saba Pivot LLC, sabapivot.com) POP

Rivers of Ni­hil

III: Wither”), there’s no telling where Rivers of Ni­hil could go from here. With Kata­to­nia cur­rently on hia­tus, we could see big changes in the pro­gres­sive metal realm. (Metal Blade, www.met­al­blade.com)

Where did you get the idea to do a death metal al­bum with sax­o­phone?

Biggs: Brody [Ut­t­ley, lead gui­tarist] and I are both big clas­sic ’70s prog fans. Bands like King Crim­son and Pink Floyd, Yes and Rush. You hear a lot of non-tra­di­tional rock in­stru­ments in bands like that all the time. No one re­ally bats an eye… [these are] al­bums that, in some cases, we like more than any metal artists.

But why the sud­den change?

We al­ways had a love for that kind of mu­sic. I think there are mo­ments on the first few al­bums where that shines through. But from the out­set of writ­ing this new record, it was “Do we do that again, or do we try some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent?” My in­cli­na­tion is al­ways “why do it again?” nor­mally sound brash or im­pul­sive, but Al­li­son’s soft-spo­ken de­liv­ery takes charge and makes the song de­fi­antly an­themic, in a ten­der way. Clean al­ter­nates be­tween cheeky, up-tempo ar­range­ments like “Cool” and “Last Girl,” and more shy, melan­choly tracks like “Flaw” and “Wild­flow­ers” that blos­som into flut­ter­ing, lus­cious fi­nales. Even with a full band, Soc­cer Mommy’s ar­range­ments re­main taste­ful, al­low­ing Al­li­son’s day­dream-like prose to shine through. While it isn’t a huge de­par­ture from Soc­cer Mommy’s early work, Al­li­son is promptly hit­ting her stride and clearly gain­ing con­fi­dence and show­ing it with strands of snark­i­ness and angst mixed into her del­i­cate, vul­ner­a­ble songs. (Fat Pos­sum) GROOVE

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