Resting on laurels and producing a hit-and-run cash grab style album may work well for some so called artists, but it doesn't cut the fucking mustard for Reading, Pennsylvania's Rivers of Nihil.
The technical death metal wizards are on the cusp on releasing their new studio album Where Owls Know My Name. We'll go so far as to call it an eclectic metal marvel – as far away from mom and pops copy-and-paste brand of metal as you can possibly run. To ask founding member bassist and vocalist Adam Biggs, that's the only way the Nihil boys know how to operate.
"We noticed a trend over the last couple of years where bands kind of get in this groove where they’re making money and making a very specific style of music, releasing the same album over and over again," says Biggs in an interview with Metal Injection. "We don’t want to be that, we want to give the fans what they want, but also give the listener something new to chew on."
Incorporating various inspirations and styles that may not necessarily fit as smoothly as PB & J – say, death metal with hints of jazz and even folk – at least not on paper, but Rivers of Nihil have managed to defy the normal pre-package instructions for the 'go-to' of how to make a death metal record. But make no mistake, this is still face-meltingly heavy death metal.
"Every record we’ve done we’ve been trying to broaden our horizons a little bit from the first record and make it more of a progressive listening experience. We’ll get the thing back from mixing and mastering and we’ll say shit, this is still a fucking death metal record," Biggs laughs.
Where Owls Know My Name follows a connected narrative from that of its critically adored predecessor Monarchy. This time around we're several millennia ahead in time, where one being remains alive, in stasis, chosen to be the sole intelligent witness of the fate of the planet. While that all sounds incredible and tailor-made for a graphic novel, Biggs explains that much of the emphasis for some of these songs comes from the band and the personal space they find themselves occupying on this drifting ball of gas.
"The whole concept thing that we do is in my mind, and I write 90 per cent of the lyrics, in my mind it’s sort of secondary, because it has to come from me from a place where this is my life now," he says. "I have to put that into the music first and then let this story that I have laid out colour the emotion of it. It’s always been a story about a world going through millions of years of changes. It’s really just a story of wherever I am or we are as a band and where we’re at in our lives. We start with the whole spring thing and we’re excited to do this whole big venture and it stars maturing into the second record, and this one is sort of settling in and looking at the larger picture of our lives and where things are going and kind of growing up and just getting older. It’s us tying that in to our the larger narrative that we’ve laid out."
And that narrative? That grim reality set in the story? Don't go in expecting rainbows or butterflies.
"I’m not going to lie to you, it’s pretty bleak," Biggs laughs. "It’s not an optimistic record. It’s just about this one particular character who is just longing to escape his existence. It’s like a 'when does this end' sort of feeling that I think our generation feels a lot. I talk to people a lot and meet people my age that are just tired of everything. It’s sort of a reflection of that."
The one character is the poor sombre-looking chap that adorns the eye-popping cover of Where Owls Know My Name. He's the saddest sort, and he reflects the complexity, and cathartic nature of the album.
"That’s the whole thing. To me that’s the protagonist of our story here," Biggs says of the tree-beard looking character. "He’s been alive for millions of years and he’s just waiting to leave and he’s just become a part of his surroundings, sort of indistinguishable."
Going against the grain has been a forever-theme for Rivers of Nihil. They'll never be accused of carbon copy or parody, which is damn near impossible in the overstuffed business of music.
"It’s interesting. I have a lot of people telling me emphatically that you need to listen to this record or that record and I’m just like ‘meh’. And it’s not out of disrespect for anybody, but I feel like I’ve heard everything already," Biggs says. "It’s depressing to say that because it is a genre of music that I’ve put so much of my time and my life into. It could very well just be me and the timing of it all. There are some people making some great progressive music and really shaking up this whole metal scene and really trying to give the fans something different. I see a lot of younger bands like Fallujah and the Zenith Passage that come to mind regularly. You can tell they’re taking what’s traditionally happening in the scene and they’re just adding more to it, because they know that people need more out of this. I think we feel the same way."
Need more proof that this is an album that dares to be different? Even the most die-hard metal puritan can see that Rivers of Nihil are driving a different make and model when it comes to creative inspiration.
"A lot of our influences for this record have been super non-metal," Biggs said. "I think Brody (Uttley, guitarist) and I have talked a lot about that last David Bowie record. That was kind of a big inspiration for us to incorporate saxophone and darker themes and ambient stuff. It’s just amazing what a man can do at the end of his life, to express that thing. It’s amazing. There’s no reason for us not to do our jobs then, isn’t there?"
Where Owls Know My Name is available via Metal Blade Records in a number of deadly fan-friendly packages on March 16th. The band kick off a North American tour with Dying Fetus, Thy Art Is Murder, Enterprise Earth and Sanction on March 15h. Dates below!
Rivers of Nihil tour dates
w/ Dying Fetus, Thy Art Is Murder, Enterprise Earth, Sanction1
Mar. 15 – Poughkeepsie, NY @ The Chance
Mar. 16 – Rochester, NY @ Montage Music Hall
Mar. 17 – Cleveland, OH @ Agora
Mar. 18 – Toronto, ON @ Opera House
Mar. 20 – Pontiac, MI @ Crofoot
Mar. 21 – Joliet, IL @ The Forge
Mar. 22 – Minneapolis, MN @ Skyway
Mar. 23 – Merriam, KS @ Aftershock
Mar. 24 – Denver, CO @ Summit
Mar. 27 – Portland, OR @ Bossanova
Mar. 28 – Seattle, WA @ Studio Seven
Mar. 30 – San Jose, CA @ The Ritz
Mar. 31 – Pomona, CA @ Glasshouse
Apr. 1 – Phoenix, AZ @ Club Red
Apr. 3 – Tulsa, OK @ The Vanguard
Apr. 4 – Springfield, MO @ The Riff
Apr. 6 – Knoxville, TN @ International
Apr. 7 – Miami, FL @ The Ground
Apr. 8 – Tampa, FL @ Orpheum
Apr. 9 – Birmingham, AL @ Zydeco
Apr. 10 – Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade
Apr. 11 – Jacksonville, FL @ 1904
Apr. 13 – Houston, TX @ Come and Take It Live
Apr. 14 – Austin, TX @ Texas Independence Fest
Apr. 15 – Dallas, TX @ Gas Monkey Live
Apr. 17 – St. Louis, MO @ Ready Room
Apr. 18 – Columbus, OH @ Skully's Music Diner
Apr. 19 – Allentown, PA @ One Centre Square
Apr. 20 – Worcester, MA @ New England Metal & Hardcore Fest
Apr. 21 – Asbury Park, NJ @ House of Independence
Apr. 22 – Amityville, NY @ Revolution