Album Review: Rivers of Nihil – Monarchy

I’m going to start this off with a gross oversimplification to help out anyone reading this that has no attention span:  This album is like if latter-day Job for a Cowboy had a baby with Planetary Duality-era Faceless which was then home-schooled by Fallujah.  If that sounds appealing to you, pick this album up.  You can move on now and chase the squirrel over there if you don’t get distracted by that shiny thing first.  For those of you with actual attention spans, this is a very good album that rewards active listening and requires some effort to really enjoy.  Its waters run much deeper than my initial statement indicate, but too few rocks break the surface to grab your attention with a passing glance.

This album is well written, well thought out, great sounding and pretty intense. It’s also dense as hell and keeps you guessing. It doesn’t so much flow as it does flood. It reminds me a bit of the latest Dir En Grey album in that it’s not very “listener friendly.” It’s a grower for sure. Just like Dir En Grey however, once it gets its hooks in you, they are in good.

There are a lot of influences going on in this album and that is really one of my only “problems” with it. Quotes added because, really, it’s not bad at all, just not quite there yet. What I mean by that is you can hear each individual influence; the band hasn’t fully worked them into their own sound yet. You say things to yourself while listening like “Ooooh, this is a Neurosis-esque part.” or “Hey, that’s some JFAC riffage right there!” instead of feeling the bands own identity. I really feel like these guys are so close to nailing it though.

One of the things that make this album a tough listen is the very linear nature of the songs. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it will keep a lot of people that would otherwise enjoy it away. The motifs are pretty buried and they don’t come back around very much. Another thing that makes them hard to spot is their density and mutable nature. When they do come back around, there is often a change in there that can make it hard to identify unless you are paying attention. Also, it has a weird pseudo climax with the track title track. The first two times I listened, I thought that was the end of the album. It actually makes the album feel like a little bit of a letdown because it never quite gets back up to those heights.

If it seems like I am nit-picking, it’s because I am. I think the issue is that this album is so close to being completely amazing, that is just bugs the hell out of me. I mean, this is a really good album! It’s epic, heavy, interesting, and just packed tight with ideas. The maturation of this band from the last album to this one is just incredible. There is only one other band that I think did better on that front this year, and I’ll save that for my next review as I’m still digesting their album.

Let’s chat about the sonics real quick like. It’s a very good sounding album, if just a little flat. You can hear everything clearly, even the bass, which I absolutely love. The cymbals are a bit too thin to really be present, which is a much more minor thing.

If you are looking for an album that is just a bunch of easy to digest riffs and chant-alongs, this is not it.   This is a cerebral, headphone album if I ever heard one. It is really great after a few spins if you are willing to put in the effort as a metal fan and I highly recommend it. I am super excited to keep following this band and picking up their albums. All the ingredients are there, they just need to tweak the recipe a bit.

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Album Review: Rivers of Nihil – Monarchy

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