“Where Owls Know My Name” attempts to test the limits of progressive death metal music. Like many sounds from the genre, Rivers of Nihil have incorporated elements of jazz, electronica, and some ambience into many of the songs in the album.
Although some of the ambient elements, along with an occasional lack of variation in melodies, at times make some of the songs seem boring to listen to, these qualities allow for a really good, relaxing experience. As opposed to what one might expect, the presence of saxophones do not make the album any more lighter than what the average metal album would sound like.
Rather, there comes a new dimension of melodic brawn and harmonious sophistication that could only be interpreted as an improvement to the listening experience that the compositions provide. The music can be rocked just as much as it can be listened to quite passively.
To listeners who are accustomed to listening to softer sounds and the like, many of the tracks in this album will sound quite extraordinary. A useful suggestion will be to start off with the title track, “Where Owls Know My Name,” which begins with a pop sounding melody before switching-in within the second minute. The melodious sounds of electric guitars and sonorous saxophones, harsh growls, and ornate riffs accompanied by drums that throb with life give this track a mesmerizing quality.
The lyrics are heartbreaking and yet life shines in its performance. It is a song of distress that very much resonates with hope. The following song, which is the last in the album, “Capricorn / Agoratopia” comes up next quite fittingly in line after “Where Owls Know My Name.” from here on, this album can be played from the beginning and enjoyed in all its gloriousness.
To further discuss the character of this album, Robert Stenko, NJIT fourth-year and an avid fan of death-metal music, agreed to a short interview to evaluate the album from a die-hard fan’s perspective.
A: How much of a metal-music fan would you say you are?
R: I am a die-hard fan of metal. I do not listen to much else. I go to see bands play live as much as I can and try to turn others into fans of the genre with every opportunity I have.
A: How would you rate this album on a scale of 1 – 10?
R: As of now it would be 8.5, but next week it can be a 7 or a 10. It depends on my current mood. But officially I’ll go with 8.5
A: What do you think of the overall approach to the album?
R: It is not the heaviest nor the fastest album out there. They are not the first metal band to use the saxophone, but this just swallows you whole. It’s different from anything I’ve heard before and it’s refreshing. Don’t get me wrong–I side with the idea of “don’t fix it if it’s not broken,” but a little change of direction from their past albums is very welcomed. To a casual “metal” fan, a lot of bands that play similar music will sound alike, and I see their point, but what Rivers of Nihil have done on this album is set themselves apart from fellow musicians simply by adding another instrument (saxophone).
A: So, you have been a previous listener to their other releases? How would you rate their strength in comparison to what you would expect from an average metal band?
R: I knew a few songs by them before, but this last release really got my attention. I’m not sure what the average metal band is, I guess it’s up to everyone’s own interpretation. I personally can’t compare one band to another, hell I can’t even compare one album from the same band to another album by the same band. There are certain favorite bands of mine that I have a few expectations from, and Rivers of Nihil is not at that stage yet, but if they keep this pace then they will be one of my favorites. I have to go back and revisit their entire catalog to see how I really feel about them.
A: Do you have any favorite tracks from the album and why so?
R: “A silent life” is my favorite I guess, simply because it was the first track I heard, and it’s the one that made me more interested in the band.
A: What emotions would you say accompany this album?
R: A very relaxed feeling as opposed to listening to something like Deicide or Dying Fetus. I’m just in a better mood every time I hear something I enjoy.
A: What words come to mind?
R: A bit of an overused word comes to mind, but the album is EPIC!
A: What are the negatives to the album?
R: I don’t see any negatives when it comes to the album, it’s a very solid album. I haven’t given it a 10/10 because I am comparing it to my favorite albums by other bands.
A: Would you recommend this to a non-metal head?