By | May 5, 2018

Rivers  Nihil, the Death Metal / Saxophone Act You Didn't Know You Wanted, Are Coming to Canada

Death metal with saxophones. Full stop.
Building on two solid releases and a decade touring, Rivers Nihil dropped Where Owls Know My Name onto an unsuspecting public last month. Since then, the Pennsylvania-based progressive metal act have seen the album skyrocket to Number 3 on Billboard‘s New Artist charts. Not bad for a group that sounds like Cryptopsy meets Kenny G.
“It’s crazy,” bassist Adam Biggs tells Exclaim! “It’s bigger than anything I ever expected us to do.” When we talk, Rivers Nihil are in the middle touring with Dying Fetus and Thy Art Is Murder, bands with whom they share superficial similarities, but Biggs admits their influences lie elsewhere.
“Brody Uttley, lead guitarist] and I are both big classic ’70s progressive rock fans,” Biggs says. “Stuff like Pink Floyd and King Crimson, Yes and Rush — we like them] more than any metal artists.”
Rivers Nihil weren’t afraid to show f their progressive tendencies on Monarchy or The Conscious Seed Light, but Where Owls Know My Name puts them right up front. “It was kind , ‘Do we do this again, or do we do something completely different?'” says Biggs the change in sound, “My inclination is always ‘Why do it again?’
“We have a friend, Zach Strauss, whose band Brody recorded. When we started tracking this album’s demos, Zach wanted to hear it. He sent us back a video him playing sax over the song. We couldn’t believe it. We hadn’t even asked him to do that. Suddenly, it was like ‘Do your thing!’ We thought it was awesome.”
That demo ended up becoming “The Silent Life,” on Where Owls Know My Name. Scratch the song’s surface and it reveals almost everything Rivers Nihil get right, from jazzy interludes to Tool-like time signature changes and a jittering saxophone solo that will redefine how we think the instrument in a metal contest. Over all this is some the best progressive death metal since Gojira’s Magma.
“You hear a lot non-traditional rock instruments in prog] all the time” says Biggs. “Nobody bats an eye, really. That farther we got along in the writing process for this album, the more the floodgates opened. We were adding in Mellotron solos, and additional sax solos. My answer is pretty much universally ‘Yes, let’s do it.’ Y’know, why not?”
Death metal crowds can be an orthodox lot, and Rivers Nihil obviously knew this going in. “It is scary,” Biggs admits. “There were plenty times when we were like ‘Whoa, is this gonna upset some our core fans?'” Fortunately, the fans responded. Where Owls Know My Name has gathered glowing reviews in the metal underground since its release. When asked if he has been following the fans’ reactions, Adam was enthusiastic.
“This is all happening while we are on tour,” he explains, “With anything you do on tour, you get a weird perspective on the world around you. But now, people are coming out specifically for us. We’ve been doing better, markedly, then any other time before.”
Rivers Nihil are on a creative streak, making something that genuinely has not been done before. “I would rather put out something I truly believe in, something positive, then just retreading ideas. I feel I’d be miserable just doing that.”
Where Owls Know My Name is out now on Metal Blade.
Rivers Nihil recently announced tour dates with Alterbeast and Inferi that include Canadian dates from Halifax to Regina, beginning at the end June. You can find the dates here.