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Monday, 7 October 2019

A View From The Back Of The Room: Rivers Of Nihil (Live Review By Matt Bladen)

Rivers Of Nihil, Black Crown Initiate, Møl, Orbit Culture, The Fleece, Bristol

Over to the pole filled venue of Bristol for a night of heavy/tech/prog/death metal from four of the scenes biggest hitters. I'll confess I'd never seen any of the bands on this bill before so it was with great interest I headed over to Bristol for the show.

First up for the night were Swedish band Orbit Culture (7) who opened the show with probably the least heavy of all the bands, I'd say they had a melodeath sound of the Swedish death scene reminding me of In Flames with the broader strokes of Metallica and the groove of Gojira. The vocals moved between clean and harsh, though a little low in the mix, as the band ripped through their opening set gaining more fans as they progressed. A pacey start as their death/thrash sound got heads nodding across the crowd even pulling in the hardcore death proggers who were filtering in. By the end of their set the room was full and there was an applause of appreciation when they had finished. Ones to watch and a band I hope to see again.

As good as Orbit Culture were the roof was just about to be blown off by Danish act Møl (9) who are mesmerising. Dreamy ambient textures are mixed with blistering black metal for their full on assault to the senses. They never let you get too comfortable with what they are playing before switching things up. At the front of the band their vocalist is terrifying, dressed in a Bossk long-sleeve with his short hair and unassuming between song manner he looks like a car salesman fronting a band, that is until he sings where he unleashes the demon inside. Hissing, barking, roaring and screaming like a tortured soul as the music flowed through him, cavorting his body to every swirling shoegaze inflected blastbeat. It was exhilarating to watch enthralling with every moment the lights complimenting the bands sound as they peeled the paint off the walls. Most of the audience stood dumbfounded as the one band on the show that didn't fit in musically, lay down a gauntlet for both bands to come to pick up. Simply staggering!

So with this challenge out there Black Crown Initiate (7) would have a high bar to reach and unfortunately try as they might they couldn't live up to the previous set. Their progressive death metal sound was a little muddy meaning that the technical nuances couldn't be heard that well, vocally the harsh grunting of James was standard heavy fayre but unfortunately the clean vocals of Andy fell a little flat too often for me detracting from the show. Still there's no way you can call them bad, just poorly positioned after the exhausting Møl, yes they were more in kin with the style of the headliners but unfortunately I don't think this was them at their best.

Still I'm sure they'll come back soon, however as the hardcore pit jockeys found their way to the front it was time for the second band from Reading PA, Rivers Of Nihil (9) to kick off their headline set and from moment one it was imperious and brutal. Fat grooves, chunky prog riffs and lung destroying vocals got the pits moving early as the band kicked off with only two songs not taken from their most recent masterpiece Where Owls Know My Name. It was after Rain Eater, from The Conscious Seed Of Light, that they then played Where Owls Know My Name in its entirety as the band were joined periodically by Zach The Sax Man for those sax breaks that made the album so much more than a prog death record, the brutality of the metal songs such as Hollow are at odds with the jazz refrains of Terrestria: III.

I must at this juncture mention the light show which was as intense as the music itself providing perfect visual accompaniment to the bands frenetic stage pace. They called for pits and walls of death frequently as they blasted through what is probably their best album to date and the crowd obliged with gusto, the Americans having the precision of a scalpel albeit one mounted to a chainsaw. Breathtaking thumping metal from the Americans with heaps of progression, ambience and brutality, a band who must be on a lot of summer festivals lists for next year you need to see them. 

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