Rivers of Nihil – Monarchy (Metal Blade)

Thursday, 6th August 2015
Rating: 9.5/10

Rivers of Nihil came out of the gates in a big way with their 2013 debut, The Conscious Seed of Light. An intriguing 4-album concept based upon the seasons, some crushing riffs with a technical edge, and some light atmosphere (“Airless” and “Mechanical Trees”) were only some of the reasons to champion the young band. Since then, they’ve hit the road on a number of high profile tours but also lost two members (guitarist Jon Kunz and drummer Ron Nelson). It does seem that time has been on their side overall though, as Monarchy demonstrates a huge leap forward for the band.

The opposite of a sophomore slump, Monarchy takes what the band did effectively and turns it up a notch, while the subtle atmosphere introduced in a few tracks last time around is given more room to breathe and grow. Those who enjoyed The Conscious Seed need not be worried though, as there’s still plenty of pummeling riffs sure to cause some neck injury. “Monarchy” has some of the heftiest riffing the band has done, and “Dehydrate” must follow in a close second. There seems to be some added Meshuggah/newer Decapitated-esque chug to the riffing at times that allows it to mesh quite well with the added emphasis on atmosphere, such as the ending of “Reign of Dreams” or “Sand Baptism.” The standout (and audible) bass performance by Adam Biggs is also worth mentioning, giving an almost jazzy feel from time to time.

Truly, the way that band has utilized atmosphere carries the same amount of revelation that it did for Fallujah last year. The atmosphere adds majesty or melancholy to further round out the picture at a moment’s notice, with the final three tracks feeling the most powerful in this regard (though it’s clearly involved in each track). Instrumental “Terrestria II – Thrive” successfully brings an almost post-metal level of beauty as it slowly builds to an emotional climax. “Circles in the Sky” continues this notion, featuring a floaty atmosphere surrounded by occasional blast beats and some clean guitar. Ending on “Suntold,” the band slows considerably, giving their more somber side room to shine (though not without a few monster riffs along the way – giving them added depth).

It’s nothing short of awesome to watch a band like Rivers of Nihil grow by leaps and bounds in such a short time. The heavier parts have gotten even heavier, while the added atmosphere introduces a new sense of dynamics and lasting depth – all while retaining a format that current/older fans will latch on to yet appeals to plenty of new ones. The end product is nothing less than intoxicating. Monarchy solidifies Rivers of Nihil as one of modern death metal’s most promising acts, and is sure to be much lauded when folks begin chatting about the best releases of the year.

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