Friendly competition is always a good thing. It provides challenge and generally leads to increased production, with improved quality. If this sounds more like a corporate business mission statement, maybe it’s because I’m writing this review at work, instead of doing my actual job. But, coincidentally, this ideal bridges the gap into music, as well. And, unless I’m harboring an elaborate hallucination, I think it’s safe to say that a number of younger Death Metal groups are locked in a competition to see who can write the most impressive record.
The top three bands, at least in my mind, that have been locked in this battle of riffage are FALLUJAH, BLACK CROWN INITIATE, and RIVERS OF NIHIL. Where the former two released incredible discs in 2014, RIVERS unleash their newest challenge to the Metal throne on August 21, through Metal Blade Records. Monarchy brings the Reading, PA group to a level far beyond what was seen on their debut, expanding in several directions, delivering a well-rounded album that is heavy, technical, and melodic, yet easily accessible to those not initiated with Tech Death.
“Heirless” serves as the opening of the disc, with a droning arpeggio that escalates throughout. Moreover, the track serves as an elongated introduction for “Perpetual Growth Machine”, a straight-forward exercise in modern-day Death Metal. “Reign of Dreams”, “Sand Baptism”, “Ancestral, I” and “Dehydrate” also keeps things on the heavier end, but do so with riffing that borders on the way of being catchy.
Midway through, one begins to notice the subtle points of atmosphere added to songs. This element was seen in small detail on the group’s debut; but used in more effect here, especially on the latter half of the disc. This can be heard on the album’s title track, which opens with a lightly-distorted arpeggio progression locked by a tight bass and drum groove, reminiscent of MASTODON. Thereafter, the song opens up in a raucous way, with incredibly choreographed guitar work. I make special note of the syncopated riffing. The most varied display of the band’s sound is offered on instrumental “Terrestria II: Thrive”, adding acoustic guitars in a beautifully executed mellow section. Similar effects are heard on “Circles in the Sky” and “Suntold”, which I would be happy to discuss, but I’m getting long-winded.
There’s not much to say in summing things up here, as there is no reason anyone should skip out on this disc. From side to side, top to bottom, first to last, Monarchy is a bold statement of what should be done in Death Metal. As stated above, there seems to be a silent chess match happening between the top echelon of younger Death Metal bands, and RIVERS OF NIHIL have made a pivotal move, putting their cohorts in check. While we wait for the next strategic assault, make sure you pick up a copy of this disc. You need it.
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM