Rivers of Nihil
The Work


2.1
poor

Review

by Robert Garland STAFF
September 28th, 2021 | 157 replies


Release Date: 09/24/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Up shit creek…

If we circle back three years ago, Rivers of Nihil’s Where Owls Know My Name sent shockwaves through extreme metal’s repositories. Lauded as a behemoth of technical death metal, Owls… brought a deal of hype to this Pennsylvanian group unseen in their previous records, Monarchy or the debut, The Conscious Seed Of Light. In many ways, Where Owls Know My Name (for better or worse) was clearly lightning in a bottle...and a break away moment for a group on the cusp of turning heads—even the detractors couldn’t stop this little steamboat from entering the fjord. It’s unfortunate, mostly because Rivers of Nihil has squandered both potential and momentum with this brick-walled and insipid release with some of the year’s more aloof compositions.

It’s no wonder The Work would become the band’s biggest blunder to date; even before the record hit shelves the band admits “We didn't really know if it was all going to connect together in any kind of logical or interesting way.” It shows. Even in the album’s more introductory sections (“The Tower (Theme from "The Work") the vocals are brooding, somewhat melancholic but overly directionless. Sweeping piano work simply exists for the sake of it, but are admittedly inoffensive in nature. By far, the record’s more crippling features are built around The Work’s lack of flow, general cohesive ineptitude and a terrible mixing that fails to cover up the numerous moments of lack-lustre musicianship.

“Dreaming Black Clockwork” is an unadulterated example of the complaints I’ve made above; while the guitar riffs provide a measure of bombast, the track itself sounds like the unwanted, yet progressive child from Meshuggah and Parkway Drive (a la Reverence), before throwing basic sensibilities to the wind. Minimalistic sirens creep from the back of the track as if there’s a dichotomy of light and dark that’s supposed to work on merit alone. The effect is contrived, forced and bullies away the record’s first chance at constructing a feasible storyline for its listeners. I’ll admit the track’s first half does have some merit but meanders completely while attempting to be progressive and its dystopian tail is an atmosphere killer. Furthermore, “Wait” is pretentious, an attempt at contrasted kitschiness. In stripping away most of the band (and album’s) harsher tones, the seemingly art rock-meets-radio vibes steer The Work in an ungodly juxtaposition of themes dressed up as “progressive” and a continuation of theme when in reality this dribble should’ve been reserved for those late-night live sessions at a dive bar somewhere. It simply doesn’t belong among anything The Work has to offer, positive or not. It’s bewildering that this oversight didn’t find itself quashed in the album’s pre-production stages—but I digress.

“Clean” is similarly depressing, but is a comparable godsend when compared to tracks like “Wait” and “Focus” (the latter falling especially short in the riff department). It would seem that The Work might have mapped out the right estuary to travel up if not for River Of Nihil’s need to squash every little nuance into such a small space. There's still an overabundance of the album’s hook, coupled with the track’s...it’s overkill, sounding more and more forced with every successive listen. What the track does do correctly is provide “The Void from Which No Sound Escapes” the correct lead-in. There are moments, as fleeting as they are, that do tip the scales ever so slightly for Rivers of Nihil. Despite my earlier sweeping observations, “Dreaming Black Clockwork” does have a strong initial framework, but it’s the album’s back half that some of the band’s potential is measured. Moments of atmospheric clarity contrast well with the group’s more prominent, heavier moments, but the rhythm section is markedly less impressive than the melodic sections and the gentler reprieves that introduce the guitar solo. Personally, I could’ve done with more of that solo and less of that ‘out of the blue’ saxophone section.

In an attempt to bring the album’s storyline back into play, The Work introduces “Tower 2” to space out the rest of the music. The thing is, just like “Wait”, it simply doesn’t work in this setting; sticking out like a snowman on a sunny beach—and the larger grandiosity of River Of Nihil’s concept misses far more than they hit. Perhaps if The Work had been released as a double album and allowed some of their ideas more time to flesh out, Rivers Of Nihil’s fourth album would have finally realised the potential they offered with their Where Owls Know My Name release. Instead, their 2021 effort is a conundrum of sorts and filled with more twists and turns than the band could actually manage. Maybe this tributary was meant to shoot off in a different direction, or the inlet wasn’t mapped properly? Whichever it was, The Work is not as finished as Rivers Of Nihil would suggest.




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user ratings (191)
3.2
good
other reviews of this album
Zach (2.5)
An endless dance of duality....



Comments:Add a Comment 
Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
September 28th 2021


15709 Comments

Album Rating: 2.1 | Sound Off

Listen here if you want to I guess:



https://riversofnihil.bandcamp.com/

Digging: Obscura - A Valediction

Koris
Contributing Reviewer
September 28th 2021


12399 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

And boom goes the dynamite.



Good review, and I more or less agree with you on your points... underwhelming stuff

LeddSledd
September 28th 2021


6565 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

core kids will adore this, I think

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
September 28th 2021


15709 Comments

Album Rating: 2.1 | Sound Off

Now to go back and work on that other thing I was working on.

Koris
Contributing Reviewer
September 28th 2021


12399 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

"Now to go back and work on that other thing I was working on."



If you're referring to what we were discussing in the contrib chat, I won't be able to tbh. I'm taking a break from writing atm to focus on some personal stuff I've gotta take care of (hence why I haven't written a review since the beginning of the month). I'll be back to reviewing eventually though, just got something serious I need to focus on until early November or so

Dedes
September 28th 2021


8037 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

@ledd

That gif will haunt all my future dreams.

Great review and while I feel a little less harshly towards this record I'll agree it does feel simultaneously overindulgent and unfinished. To many ideas without enough time to flesh out a cohesive concept

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
September 28th 2021


15709 Comments

Album Rating: 2.1 | Sound Off

— discussing in the contrib chat,—



Um both. I’m going to have to turn the OG into a review and then really articulate on what that looked like it was turning into. We’ll see.

Koris
Contributing Reviewer
September 28th 2021


12399 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0 | Sound Off

Oh shit, I read that wrong, sorry. I didn't read the "to" in the sentence, lol

parksungjoon
September 28th 2021


38529 Comments


its here

ExhaleTheLight
September 28th 2021


1185 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Parkway Drive b-side vibes kicking in…

BobLoblar
September 28th 2021


9 Comments


Okay review, feels in bad faith tho

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
September 28th 2021


15709 Comments

Album Rating: 2.1 | Sound Off

What’s bad faith?

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
September 28th 2021


26428 Comments


Something satanic for sure.

Digging: Converge - Bloodmoon I

cor22222
September 28th 2021


393 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Sputnikmusic staff hipocrisy episode 2137

Digging: Abscession - Rot of Ages

parksungjoon
September 28th 2021


38529 Comments


Digging: Dom Z?y - ?nisz bory tak g?ste

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
September 28th 2021


15709 Comments

Album Rating: 2.1 | Sound Off

If that was spelt properly? But I wouldn’t want to call out your bigotry just because someone may not have the same opinions as you…



Damn. Parks sniped my salt.

parksungjoon
September 28th 2021


38529 Comments


it is bad faith not to like everything and give 3.5+s only like most staffers

colors ii 2.0 / august turds red 3.0

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
September 28th 2021


15709 Comments

Album Rating: 2.1 | Sound Off

But there’s been lots of ratings this year, for lots of reasons on lots of things.

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
September 28th 2021


26428 Comments


"Sputnikmusic staff hipocrisy episode 2137"

Damn, we're only at 2137? I thought we were wrapping up S2 already.


JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
September 28th 2021


42883 Comments


jam buke and gase

Digging: Lali Puna - Scary World Theory



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