Released: 2013, Metal Blade Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Reading, Pa., upstarts Rivers of Nihil do just about everything right on their rather remarkable debut full-length. Ass-ripping, challenging tunes with a unique spin on progressive death metal, heady lyrics, some rad Dan Seagrave cover artwork and sterling production from Hate Eternal mainman Erik Rutan that boasts a more organic feel than his sometimes clinical work are combined here to make The Conscious Seed of Light one of the year’s finer first efforts.
Though occasionally a bit too technical for its own good, The Conscious Seed of Light, nevertheless, is a rather dazzling display of death metal taken to the next level. For cheap comparisons, Rivers of Nihil sound a bit like Meshuggah on meth, courtesy of the combination of Jake Dieffenbach roaring, ripshit vocals; the dense, brown sound guitar tones of Jon Kunz and Brody Uttley; and the off-kilter, constantly shifting rhythms built around an often supersonic pace.
The crazy-quilt structure of “A Fertile Altar,” “Central Antheneum” or “Place Of Serpents” can be rather dizzying, but hulking hooks help to nicely tie the disparate parts together and even make them, in some obtuse way, somewhat catchy. Adam Biggs’ finger-poppy bass lines even add a cool bit of funk playfulness, without going too far and making the band sound like Rivers of Chili Peppers, or something.
Though there certainly is a lot going on here, the band are able to maintain some control of it all, keeping the music centered and not flying off on pointless tangents. And that’s a quite impressive feat, given that this is their full-length debut and very easily could have gone off the rails in a fit of youthful exuberance and turned into a masturbatory mess. Instead, Rivers of Nihil know just when to tighten the reins, and Dieffenbach’s nature-themed, though still somewhat apocalyptic, lyrics add a thought-provoking twist to the usual extinction of mankind bluster.
These guys sound wise beyond their years and are unspoiled by modern death metal convention – which is one of the advantages of coming from a nowheresville like Reading, Pa. They can work in relative obscurity and really hone their craft, instead of toiling away in a scene where creativity often takes a backseat to attention-grabbing theatrics. But with an album as grounded and great as Seed of Light, Rivers of Nihil won't remain obscure for much longer.