Rivers of Nihil’s new single ushers in a psychedelic exploration

Rivers of Nihil. L-R: drummer Jared Klein; lead guitarist Brody Uttley; singer Jake Dieffenbach; bassist Adam Biggs; and guitarist Jon Topore. Image Credit: Metal Blade Records.
US tech death group Rivers of Nihil’s latest single invites psychedelic elements into their ever-expanding sound. Tim Bottams reviews their new single, Clean.
Rivers of Nihil’s new single ushers in a psychedelic exploration

The new song from technical death metal stalwarts Rivers of Nihil begins with a lone, mournful guitar fit for a forlorn Morricone, before exploding. 

From there, the Pennsylvania-based band effortlessly shifts from moments of quiet anguish to righteous anger, with a surprising number of clean vocals adding further deviation from their initial tech death label. 

The Pennsylvania-based band dropped their latest song and first single—Clean—in late July, from their upcoming album The Work

As the first single release from the album, Clean serves as an immediate follow up to the band’s previous album Where Owls Know My Name, which introduced a heavily progressive character and expansive textures, adding the prominent use of saxophone to their sound. 

Clean carries on that progressive sensibility and weaves a tapestry of shifting moods and emotions. 

The lyrics appear to continue along the line of the band’s previous conceptual tendencies, echoing Black Sabbath’s Killing Yourself to Live and Pink Floyd’s Welcome to the Machine in their assault on societal and labour exploitation. 

Rivers of Nihil’s new single ushers in a psychedelic exploration
Cover art for the upcoming album, The Work.

It is the Floyd parallel where the band seems to take greater inspiration from.

The longingly melodic keyboard solo ushers in a transcendently psychedelic character with its spacey, soaring textures taking them into the spheres of bands like Gong, Hawkwind and Pink Floyd.

There is a very layered and full sound to Clean, yet it never feels stifling or overwhelming. 

The song is laden throughout with a tight musicianship that one would expect of a tech death song, but the technicality on display never allows the song to suffer as a result—even the progressive elements cannot tarnish Clean’s emotional expression.     

With Owls, Rivers of Nihil proved themselves a band unafraid of rejecting label restrictions and daring to venture into new realms of musical territory and, if Clean is any indication on the direction of the new album, The Work looks to be no exception.

Clean is track six on The Work, which is slated for release on September 24.