It’s been three years since progressive, technical death metal act Rivers of Nihil released the groundbreaking and critically acclaimed Where Owls Know My Name (Metal Blade Records). Three long years which have seen a global pandemic almost bring the entertainment industry to its knees. However, having already set 2020 aside to concentrate on writing, the Coronavirus outbreak only made minor dents in the Pennsylvanians plans and conceptual album The Work (Metal Blade) is the exhilarating and wonderfully confounding result.
Opening with lonely piano keys and the whispered, haunting tones of vocalist Jake Dieffenbach, ‘The Tower (Theme from ‘The Work’)’ expands with different textures as its “la-de-da-de-da” lyrics move with apparent somnolence towards a slowly intensifying release of pressure. Driven by a lurching riff and the inhuman skills of drummer Jared Klein, ‘Dreaming Black Clockwork’ twists itself into dark, ambient jazz, eventually climaxing as a screeching, dissonant nightmare comparable to extreme New York experimentalists Imperial Triumphant.
‘Wait’ balances discordance with serenity as rich, warm tones become inextricably intertwined with oppressive, crepuscular darkness. The contrasts continue as clean vocals and guttural roars collide on the drug-centric ‘Focus’ while ‘Clean’ is a more straightforward but uncompromising, lumbering behemoth featuring blastbeats, a cosmic synth section and a stirringly emotive guitar solo. Progressive tour de force ‘The Void from Which No Sound Escapes’ boasts more twists in its relatively short six and a half minutes than an entire M Night Shyamalan marathon. A cavalcade of atmospherics and time signatures, the song is stolen by regular contributor Zach Strouse who provides one of the smoothest, smokiest saxophone solos you’ll hear this year.
‘MORE?’ is three minutes of unbridled aggression where breathing space merely means the birth of another sonic detonation while the sax-infused ‘Tower 2’ expands upon the opening track with echoes of Faith No More and another explosion of anger. James Dorton from Black Crown Initiate lends his vocal cords to ‘Episode’, another airy piece that occasionally cracks apart with the seismic riffing of Brody Uttley and Jon Topore. The uplifting ‘Maybe One Day’ features floaty acoustics, expert fingerwork from bassist Adam Biggs and an otherworldly Gothic quality as it builds to a powerful, melodic climax before the album concludes with ‘Terrestria IV: Work’. Eleven and a half minutes of epileptic drumming and ambitious progressive experimentation where ambient atmospherics meet blackened death metal and Strapping Young Lad. With saxophones.
Producers Carson Slovak and Grant McFarland return once more to help create the perfect sonic atmosphere as grinding metal soundscapes are complemented by sultry jazz and velvety, blues-rich guitar solos. Cerebral, emotional and challenging, The Work is a beautifully schizophrenic piece of art from a band unafraid to smash through boundaries and set their own rules.
Buy the album here: http://www.metalblade.com/riversofnihil
10 / 10