River Black – River Black

Formed after the demise of Burnt By The Sun, River Black release their eponymously titled debut on Season of Mist with a line up featuring Mike Olender, John Adubato and Dave Witte of Burnt By The Sun, and joined by Brett Bamberger of Revocation.

River Black barrel straight into their debut with ‘Jaws’, featuring plenty of low chugging riffs, Hardcore vocals from Olender, and plenty of groove from rhythm section Witte and Bamberge.  They do so without any kind of warning, grabbing the listener by the head and screaming into their ear.

This continues with the Terror-esque lyrics of ‘Honor’ and ‘Low’ which has blasts and fast riffs aplenty, changing only for some rather melancholic breakdowns. The overall feel is of thrashy, head-nodding abrasive riffing, mixed with some jangly guitar leads and a backbone of double bass drums.

With the way they’ve arranged the various elements of their sound, I’ll confess I found myself a little unsure at first listen, but by track four ‘Shipwreck’ I’d really gotten into the feel of the album, and once you get it, it really does work well, especially on repeated listens.

‘South by South’ fades with a violin intro from ‘River Black’, which for a title track is surprisingly just an intro: hectic breaks and low dry vocals, layered with menace work well with double bass drumming, doomier riffs and the return of the violin weaving its way through a sombre end.

‘Boat’ roars noisily passed, raw crusty vocals screaming along its chugging momentum. By this point it really feels as though the band are truly finding their feet. The energetic groove carrying on throughout the next track ‘Move’, and galloping throughout ‘#Victim’.  The overall feel by this point is of a hybrid between hardcore vocal, Thrash riffs all with an underlying tone of Death Metal.

‘Haunt’ stands out stylistically, in that it’s ominously slower, and features hauntingly effective clean vocals that I wish they’d utilised more throughout the album. By the time of the last track I’ve given up any semblance of making notes and I’m just banging my head in my living room: coolly observed by my cat, her eyes once again filled with disdain.

River Black is darker than I was expecting, and often heavier, dialling down the technicality of some of their other bands in favour of a simpler groove, and it really works here. This is a cracking album, which on first listen takes a couple of songs to break into its stride, but when it does there’s plenty here to enjoy, for many a listen after.

8.0/10

RICH PRICE