Rivers-of-Nihil-Monarchy 01In order to prepare myself for Rivers of Nihil‘s sophomore effort, Monarchy, I naturally went back to The Conscious Seed of Light, which I initially hated. And lo and behold, this time I found that I liked it – even less. Let’s begin at the beginning; in the flurry of sycophancy that accompanies every second prog death release (Fallujah, Inanimate Existence, Black Crown Initiate, etc) the metal blogosphere labeled The Conscious Seed of Light a triumph of artistic expression. It was hailed as “so great, so masterful, so powerfully potent, that it rivals even the most legendary work of some of [the band’s] peers and influences,” by HeavyBlog, but even blogs that you wouldn’t expect to do that followed suit, with NoCleanSinging calling it “one of the finest modern death metal albums,” although if you consider ‘modern’ to carry stylistic rather than temporal meaning that’s not an unbelievable claim. I felt then the specter of mundanity haunting the disc and to this day it remains among the most boring and overproduced LPs I’ve ever heard. But everyone gets a second chance here in the Angry Metal Guy temple of fairness and objectivity, and so I proceed with optimistic indifference into Monarchy.

Yet after just one song, I’m still of the opinion that Rivers of Nihil have nothing to offer me. If I wanted to hear djent riffing (Atheismo help me) I’d listen to Vildjharta. If I wanted to listen to prog death, I’d spin Alustrium or Cynic. And if I wanted to be put to sleep, I’d turn a fucking fan on. As “Perpetual Growth Machine,” “Sand Baptism” and “Monarchy” reveal, the band still opposes riffs both in concept and realization. For the most part, they pretend a couple of measures of chugging or fast strumming is worthy of being not just a riff, but the riff of a song. This is especially irritating on “Sand Baptism,” and due to the tried-and true technique using your fretting hand to scratch your ass for half of a song, the exact same strings of throbbing 8th notes happen across the album, usually in the verse when the album’s Magic: The Gathering style fantasy lyrics most need to be covered up.

The first worthwhile moment in the album comes with the Mastodon-riff intro to “Monarchy” which pops up again in the song’s second half before the band decides to end on a high note with yet more chugging. Immediately thereafter, “Terrestria II Thrive” reveals that astonishingly, yes, the band have listened to Fallujah, but assume that if they slap a few Beyond Creation riffs and inaudible acoustic guitar strumming onto what’s for the most part a instrumental aping of “The Flesh Prevails,” nobody will notice how shamelessly Rivers of Nihil has copied the band. “Circles in the Sky” continues this completely, down to the superfluous acoustic guitar, but adds in guitar solos via some dude who’s passingly familiar with David Gilmour but misses the point of David Gilmour entirely. Because of how derivative it is, it’s hard to make an overarching statement about the album, but if pressed for one, I’d say that Monarchy sounds a lot like Job For a Cowboy‘s Sun Eater if that album’s music were as embarrassing and detail-blind as its album art.

I wanted to enjoy this album because it’s just easier to not hate what I have to listen to, but unfortunately that’s not to be. Rivers of Nihil have again produced nothing more than a cut-rate digest of extreme metal; their influences are painfully obvious and any elements of their music that aren’t obviously stolen are mind-numbingly simplistic. The band’s writing is nugatory, the production is lifeless, and whether due to the preceding factors or just a lack of artistry, the performances on the record are second-rate, which is a death knell in the genre.

Rivers-of-Nihil-Monarchy 02

A teacher of mine once explained to my high school history class that the difference between a normal person and an artist is knowing when to stop. A normal person, he said, will start drawing something, decide it could be better if they changed this or added that, and they’ll keep doing it. It ends up as crap. An artist, he opined, will maybe change a few things, but early on set the pencil down, because they’ve made something good enough. Michelanagelo may have painted the Sistine Chapel, but what he really loved and wanted to do was carve pure white marble. This sort of artistry is what bands like Rivers of Nihil and Between the Buried and Me lack. By adding ideas from every band they’ve ever listened to that range in quality from great to ‘you had to be there’, they produce songs and albums that feel like a nine-year old’s dream car. Sure, the chrome wheels are a touch, but do you really want them on a car with green flame decals and a carbon fiber spoiler?

This is why so many bands which are, let’s face it, not at all creative, are ultimately much more successful and likable than self-proclaimed prog outfits; whether Fear Factory‘s ten or so identical albums are the product of artistry or just a lack of inspiration is impossible to discern because they sometimes result in the same thing. Even though Between the Buried and Me write music that’s far more creative, impressive, ambitious, and intelligent than, say Weekend Nachos, I’d still rather listen to the latter because that band just knows what the hell they want the end product to be. This album doesn’t know what it wants to be and this band doesn’t know what they want to sound like, and it’s even more painful to see that on their second album.


Rating: 1.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Metal Blade Records
Websites: riversofnihil.bandcamp.com  | facebook.com/riversofnihil
Releases Worldwide: August 21, 2015

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  • AndySynn
    • Where are my goddamn camels?

      • AndySynn

        I’m waiting for AMG to send ME the damn camels!

      • Hulksteraus

        Will these do?

    • Perfect response.

      • AndySynn

        Thank you. It’s nice to have it in the back pocket now and then.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    I think I’ll buy this… but only if Steel Druhm puts on a dress and sings “I am Woman, hear me roar”.

    • What’s in it for me besides an opportunity to flex the golden pipes?

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Camels?

        • Norfair Legend

          I’d settle for I’m a little tea pot.

  • Angel R. Suarez

    The embedded track doesn’t do much for me. I really couldn’t understand all the handjobs that last album garnered.

    I tried listening to the damn thing three times and decided to just put on an ASMR video for the same effect.

  • dduuurrrr dddduuuurrrr

    Hey, Magic: The Gathering is awesome, don’t bring that into this!

    • Kronos

      I was once a fairly avid player.

  • groverXIII

    Ouch. I agree about the first album, and while I admit that I like this album more, I find it to be just sort of ‘eh’ when it comes to tech-death. (I also really like the last Fallujah album, and Between The Buried And Me in general, but that’s beside the point.) At this point, I’m just accepting that I need to listen to Alustria more, and I’m waiting for the new Gorod.

  • Handy Donut Hole

    I was completely un-enamored with the first release from Rivers of Nihil despite nearly all of my metal head buddies jazzing in their jeans over it. I plan to give this album a shot simply because I have hope but after reading this review that too is beginning to wane.

  • Oscar Albretsen

    Why is Kronos reviewing something other than deathcore?

    • Kronos

      Why do you want me to suffer?

      • Oscar Albretsen

        Well, you can just tell when the person that wrote a review is tuned in with the style they’re reviewing. So, maybe it’s not your favorite genre, per se, but it’s like commentary in a football game. The game itself may be lousy, but a wise commentator can still make it somewhat interesting. I just find you to be a very wise commentator for that subgenre. I don’t like it either, but I still read your reviews of it.

        • Kronos

          Thanks.

  • Meat Tornado

    It baffles me why you would review a band, or a genre you do not like. If your bias is already against them and you go in thinking it will suck, maybe your review is not objective. I would have rather seen someone on AMG review it who was neutral or liked the band, because I doubt this review will prevent anyone from getting it with such a bias. Of course you are entitled to do said review, but maybe each contributor should focus on things they do enjoy. It is possible to remain objective with a positive bias, but less so with a negative one.

    Ramble over.

    • That isn’t how it works at AMG. Sometimes you get stuff you like, sometimes you don’t. If every review was written by a fanboy, the scores would be as over-inflated as all the other sites.

      • Meat Tornado

        I understand that, that’s why I also said someone more neutral. It just must be disappointing for all parties to have to review something you really don’t like. Would be like me reviewing Opeth or something. Too bad you can’t trade.

        • Kronos

          Actually it’s usually just disappointing for the reviewer. This is why we make Dr Fisting review Nu-Metal.

    • Oscar Albretsen

      That’s what I was thinking, too. This guy gave Locrian, quite possibly the worst thing I’ve ever heard, a near perfect score. I know he’s a fan of Deathcore, which is a style I just don’t get, so I generally hold his reviews of it with high regard. But, it seems like any time I see him trying to review any other kind of metal, I find myself checking it out just because his review was so well written, and then end up having a practically opposite opinion of it than his in the review. I did check this out, though, and found it to be very ho-hum. Still, probably 1000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 times better than Locrian.

      • Kronos never reviewed a Locrian album. Those were done by Alex F. and Roquentin respectively.

        • Oscar Albretsen

          You’re right. I have no idea why I thought Kronos reviewed it. Well, I wish it wasn’t too late to erase my last comment, ’cause now it looks really stupid. I do appreciate Kronos’ knowledge of the deathcore subgenre, but now I have more respect for all his other reviews. 1.5 is probably a fair score for this one.

          • I’ll delete your comment for a small administrational fee.

          • Oscar Albretsen

            Well, all I can offer is my undying love and gratitude. Any more than that, I’ve got rules – 1) I won’t agree to anything unless I see your picture. 2) You have to pay 1/4 of the transportation fees for me to get there, and 3) My mouth is stricly off-limits the first time.

          • Dr. A.N. Grier

            Wow, that took a turn… Now I’m scared.

          • Is HR all mopped and spiffy?

          • Dr. A.N. Grier

            Ummmmm…. *runs for the door, slips in piss*

          • Hulksteraus

            *slides through the vomit*

          • Re: #3: Not even for harmonica duets??

          • Oscar Albretsen

            Not even for ice cream, or, um, un-ice cream. Butt, even though I don’t do yoga, I’m known as “The Downward Facing God.” So, you won’t miss my mouth much. And if you’re really desperate to do a harmonica duet, I don’t have to play with my mouth.

          • Kronos

            I’m actually not really a fan of deathcore, but I do like Lorna Shore.

    • El_Cuervo

      Not that I want to speak for him, but Kronos loves the prog death metal genre – and death generally. If anything, he is one of the ideal candidates on the team to review such an album.

      You just have to bear in mind that it’s an impossibility to be objective in reviewing art – this is just one person’s opinion.

      • I’ll speak for him, and he would say you’re all whiny poopy heads!

        • Kronos

          Damn straight! I love me some quality prog&tech-death; check out past reviews for Alustrium, Serdce, Pyrrhon,Origin, etc. but this ain’t that.

          • Angel R. Suarez

            I wish you could be my wife, Kronos.

          • No you don’t. He keeps animal bones all over the house.

          • Angel R. Suarez

            I keep the bones of famous actors I exhume. So what?

          • Kronos

            Well, legality is no longer an issue so you’d just have to convince me.

      • Lasse Momme

        Yeah Kronos is like the big cheese of prog. death, it seems like his favorite genre, which is why it’s understandable that he gets frustrated when the shit isn’t up to snuff.

      • Kryopsis

        I was about to say essentially the same thing. I do not understand how people can expect an aesthetic judgement to be objective. De gustibus non est disputandum and all that. There are so many equally sound but conflicting views on aesthetics espoused by anyone from Plato and Aristotle to Kant and Hegel. If anything, the fact that there is no hard consensus on anything means art remains exciting and timeless in the Age of Information. If you want objectivity, open a sports almanac or something. I do not mean to be callous but it baffles me that people want to turn a passion into math.

    • Kronos

      As has been mentioned, I really like prog-death and it’s sort of my beat here, so most prog and tech death records that we review cross my desk at some point and I usually review them.

      Because we have people here that largely cover music by genre (for instance, Madam X covers a lot of obscure black metal, Grymm reviews Black and Doom, Steel Druhm covers old fogie things like Power and Doom, etc), these people are sort of experts in that genre. I am de facto the expert in Prog death whether it’s true or not that I know a lot about it. This means that when I listen to Prog death, I ask myself how it compares to other works in the genre, not other works in all of metal. If I were doing the latter, pretty much all of the prog death would have inflated scores because I would think of things that I generally don’t like as much (Power metal, traditional black metal) as occupying the low tiers of the ratings.

      So when I give an album a 1.5, that generally means that it’s bad compared to similar albums, which is certainly what I think of this album. However, it most often does mean that I think the album is bad in general in addition to being bad in its genre. Any way you crack it, I know what I want prog-death to sound like and this does not sound like good music in its genre, and furthermore is unimpressive to me simply as music even without stylistic considerations.

    • I don’t agree. First: objectivity is impossible, as a myriad other commenters have pointed out, and as I’ve written about elsewhere. But furthermore, giving a record a good panning is a way of knowing where the boundaries of a said reviewers lay, and help you to better understand where we’re coming from.

      Furthermore, and let’s be frank about this, if you start listening to an album and it sucks, you might as well get the catharsis of writing a review of it sucking. Not to mention that if it’s a band you ostensibly should like, then it’s definitely a must-write review.

  • JWEG

    Well, this is quite a conundrum.

    I was quite set to get this album (though I was way indifferent to the first one) after a positive (mini) review on my other favourite Metal Blog. I trust AMG’s writers every bit as much, though (but not more).

    Normally I’d say I just need to gather more opinions from other Sites, but I can almost safely be other opinions will be positively-biased – especially from One Which Shall Go Unnamed. Which is unfortunate, because it’s also my usual tie-breaker.

    • “other favourite Metal Blog”
      ̃๏̯̃๏

    • James M. Peterson

      Just stream it for yourself ffs & if you like it get it & if you hate it dont but dont let one goddamn review ruin your “set to get”-ness of something

  • Lasse Momme

    aww man, and this was supposed to be the year Kronos found his smile :(

    • Kronos

      I have reviewed far too many good albums in the last month and you’re seeing what happens after that sort of streak.

      • Lasse Momme

        I swear these past months is like the longest I’ve ever seen your reviews go so positively. what’s it been, like 3 or 4 4.5’s? I haven’t heard a lot from this outside of the title track which I found very enjoyable, but it definitely seemed more “meat and potatoes” than some of the other stuff you’ve reviewed this summer, like Kronos and Cattle Decapitation. Does the rest of the record reflect that style or is it just complete anomaly?

        • Kronos

          The title track is probably the best song.
          don’t talk about all those 4.5s

  • Thatguy

    It was Kronos who – unfairly I think – murdered the last Fallujah.

    He didn’t even bother with the DR score on this…..

    I will take this review with a big grain of salt and check this out myself.

    • In fairness, Kronos also reviewed the DR10 version we were given later on and he was very positive about the album with proper mastering/mixing.

      • Thatguy

        Ha.

        I don’t own any camels.

  • I don’t dislike it as much because I don’t listen to the genre so much and it therefore doesn’t rub me up the wrong way… but I agree it sounds largely derivative.

  • Cool cover art though.

  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    Listening to some of the tracks is a roller-coaster of emotions. There are parts that are amazing. And even more that suck mega hard. I feel like this is good work-out music for my facial muscles.

  • Doomdeathrosh

    So the AMG temple of fairness and objectivity doesn’t really help…..

    • The what now?

      • Doomdeathrosh

        The AMG “Two Chances or Outta Here” Pedestal! (I hope it exists)

        • No such pedestal that I’m aware of. But I’ve been a bit of an absent leader of late…

          • Doomdeathrosh

            Careful. Thats how it all begins….

          • No shit, right?

  • ben

    I often find the reviews on this site very loaded. How anyone could listen to either of this bands releases and say they are bad, is beyond me. Whether or not you enjoy the music, this band knows what they are doing. They have very strong song writing skills, excellent composition and arrangement, and undeniable musicianship. Both albums are very well done, and this album is certainly a step up from the first, with more emphasize on atmosphere and song writing to match the technicality. Moreover, the way you reference BTBAM in the same breathe as this band is just laughable. You insult BTBAM for having little “direction” and “not knowing what they want to be”, yet turn around and insult Rivers for being too direct in their approach. Contradictory to say the least. On a side note, no band should be insulted for risk taking, and experimentation. BTBAM know EXACTLY what they want to be. You clearly lack the mentality to appreciate a band who doesn’t want to fit neatly into a category. But again, Rivers fit very neatly, and here you are insulting them for it. Fact is, the song writing on this album is superb. The musicianship is superb. Are they the most unique band in the genre? Absolutely not. Do they need to be? Absolutely not. The music kicksass, and there is a ton of direction. This is one of the rare modern death metal releases that is both brutal and traditional as well as modern and new sounding. Also, I read your review on the last album. The constant “Djent” references are ridiculous. This band may have some “chuggy riffs” as you like to put it, but chugging doesn’t equal Djent. This band does not fit into the “Djent” sub genre. This review, is one that I will quickly disregard. It’s clearly been written by a closed mind who knew exactly what they were going to think going into the record.
    I like to end on a positive note, so I will say, great review on The Anthropocene Extinction.

    • Callitwhatyoulike…

      This review caused me to lose all respect for this site (not that I had a lot, given that they resorted to blocking me and calling me a “troll” (an obvious confession of defeat) given that they simply couldn’t defend my arguments). In spite of their impressive writing ability, there is clear bias and clear “pseudointellectualism” on display (not to mention highly excessive contrarianism).

    • “This review, is one that I will quickly disregard”

      Apparently not, judging from the length of your comment…

    • darksvn

      tl;dr

  • IamRipper

    Wow, I agreed with everything you wrote. Another band who can’t write songs, and try to dazzle you with technicality, when it’s really not that technical at all, just boring.

  • It’s really that terrible ? The track here sounds pretty OK, not my favorite genre but seems like an honest effort by these guys.

    • Callitwhatyoulike…

      No. It isn’t. Generally, it’s very good album that is far above average, these days. If you’re looking for unbiased, non-partisan reviews, this shouldn’t be your first

  • Callitwhatyoulike…

    I know you guys blocked me the last time you couldn’t handle my comments (resorting to “troll,” like children), but let me state that this review conclusively proves that you and your site exist for no other purpose but to be as intentionally excessively contrarian as possible for the benefit of page views. Either that, or your collective judgment is extremely weak.

    Signed, 99.8th percentile IQ, 30 years of metal exposure.

    p.s. you guys are native Swedes? How embarrassing for me.

    Let the re-blocking commence!

    • You forgot to mention how much you bench press and how big your cock is. Otherwise, troll job accomplished.

      • Callitwhatyoulike…

        Since you asked, 275 and 7.5 inches. Are we done, Steel? Go on and block me–or simply call me a “troll” again.

        (I’m terribly sorry for being so objectively superior to you and your fellow cronies at AMG.)

        • We block you and will do so again because we don’t want people like you ruining the experience for the other readers.
          The whole “I’m so smart you must agree me with or you’re dumb” thing got old when Blabbermouth was young and we won’t tolerate it here. Go do your thing elsewhere.

      • Callitwhatyoulike…

        Other comments here echo mine (minus my statement of fact [IQ]). Have you read them? If you desire your site to be taken seriously, start writing serious, unbiased reviews.

  • jersey devil

    I dont get this review. A 1.5, really? I’ve been enjoying this record a lot this year. Sounds like good death metal to me.

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