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Rivers Of Nihil

Interview von: arne mit Adam Biggs, am: 18.08.2016 ]

Das Zweitwerk von RIVERS OF NIHIL – „Monarchy“ – kommt mit dem Bonus von Pre-Production-Tracks in Europa als Re-Release auf den Markt. Der Gruppe aus Reading, Pennsylvania ist es zu wünschen, dass ihr monströses Album doch noch die Aufmerksamkeit erfährt, die es verdient. Das Quintett sucht kompositorisch die Herausforderung, bietet aber ausreichend Anker, um die wilden Ideen und furiosen Technik-Parts nachvollziehen zu können. Es braucht aber einen kleinen Moment, bis man sich in die Platte hinein gehört hat. Mit zunehmender Spielzeit entdeckt man vermehrt die führenden Melodien, Schwelge-Parts und Spannungsläufe, die den Rahmen für die Tech-Death-Salven und Blastbeats bilden.


Musicscan: Who came up with doing the European rerelease of Monarchy, and why did you decide to add preproduction tracks as bonus? Why should people - already owning Monarchy - listen to the bonus tracks?

Rivers Of Nihil: Well to be totally honest it was Metal Blade’s idea to re-release the record in Europe, but we couldn’t be more excited about it. Up until this point, physical copies of our releases were in pretty short supply everywhere outside of the U.S. and Canada, so we all figured it’d be great to give European fans a little special treatment. As far as the pre-production tracks are concerned, we thought they would be a good way for fans to take a small peak into our writing process, as the demos are a huge part of how our songs come together, they also offer some slightly different takes on the songs, as they were still under construction at the time.

Musicscan: What exactly does Monarchy sound like from your point of view? Is it any kind of departure to what people might expect from you if you think of feedback and listener reaction. Do you feel “understood” to say so?

Rivers Of Nihil: The way we interpret our material versus the way any particular fan or reviewer would is pretty subjective. When you’re the artist, it’s tough to look at your own material objectively, you’ve put a lot of yourself into what makes a song or an album what it is, so you’re always biased. However, that bias can be blinding, you can never REALLY know what the fan reaction is going to be like. In the case of Monarchy though I think people have pretty much understood what we were going for. We set out to make an album that felt a little deeper and more expansive in sound and ambition than our previous work, and for the most part, people really seem to have latched onto what we were going for, save for a few obligatory detractors.

Musicscan: What sort of evolution has the band gone through into Monarchy? What I feel about the album is a coherent and in “one-style” sounding on the one and a damn good dramaturgy and diverse aggression on the other hand …

Rivers Of Nihil: Well we went through a few member changes between the making of Monarchy and the tour cycle for The Conscious Seed of Light, so there are a few obvious differences in the creative drive of the band from the get go. We had to sort of rework the way the band gets work done because the new members all lived a pretty good distance away from the rest of us, so almost none of Monarchy was written in the practice space. Aside from a few drum ideas being worked out in person, the vast majority of the album was written with online demo exchanges between the members, which I think helped sort of create that more focused sound. Doing things this way afforded us the luxury of being able to sit back and listen to the songs in an almost complete way before putting the final versions together. Overall I think this is what led to us being a little more adventurous with the album, and let us try a lot of new things we otherwise wouldn’t have. A lot of the more “progressive” sounding stuff toward the end of the record most likely wouldn’t have been possible without these changes to the creative process.

Musicscan: Where do you guys see the line drawn between progressing on what you do well, and completely offering a new direction or sound? Especially in the context of your band and Monarchy of course…

Rivers Of Nihil: I think with this band it’s always been about doing what we want to do with our sound and not really bending to what’s expected of us, and so far that’s yielded four very different offerings from Rivers of Nihil. There are always baseline rules for us, we know what we like and what we think works within our music so there are some limitations there naturally, but overall we don’t like to put any hard rules on what we can and can’t do. So far, I think the progression of our sound feels pretty natural, you can see how one idea leads to the next without too much confusion I think. But that could change one day, maybe we’ll decide at some point that we want to do something totally off the wall and different from what we normally do, I don’t think that that’s totally out of the realm of possibility for us. For Monarchy though, we thought there were some elements of The Conscious Seed of Light that needed clarification, or expansion, things we thought we could do better, so that bore a lot of inspiration for what you hear on Monarchy. A big part of what we wanted to do with Monarchy was create something of a fresh start for the band, a new paradigm if you will, but also offer a solid follow-up to our debut.

Musicscan: In general: do you think it is necessary to create a certain distance between you and the music in order to get a better understanding of its inherent quality – how do you handle such questions and how do you make sure to develop a good dramaturgy for the songs you create?

Rivers Of Nihil: It’s absolutely crucial to distance yourself from your music when necessary. Time away from writing a song, doing a mix, organizing the tracks, everything needs space so you can look at it with a fresh perspective. I know when we’re working on anything related to the band we like to create enough space from it that we can look at it from something close enough to a fan perspective, we can be harder on it and make more constructive decisions that way. Making that space gives you the power to be more objective and make something that you yourself would like to listen to.

Musicscan: And do you think it's more important for bands to observe the traditions of their style, or to push the genre's boundaries? Is there a way to achieve a balance between progression and tradition? What’s to say about what Rivers Of Nihil are doing in this regard?

Rivers Of Nihil: Like I said before, it’s always been our goal to just make music we like, to do what we want to do. If that happens to hold up a tradition or push a boundary somewhere then so be it. As creative people we don’t really want to have to feel beholden to any kind of scene or standard within a scene. Anything that we do has to come naturally, I don’t think anyone during the writing process has ever said we need to do something to a song to make it conform more to death metal standards, or to say that we need to make it more progressive, we just kind of do what we like and hope other people will like it too. I think that’s really the only way to make anything, just be true to what you think needs to be done in your own creative endeavours.

Musicscan: Rivers Of Nihil consists of well-skilled musicians with lots of crazy ideas: but do you sometimes have to prevent yourselves from getting too technical to stay memorable? It’s obvious, that it is an important thing for you to write songs with a good dramaturgy and contrasts…

Rivers Of Nihil: Again, we just do what we like. If we need a part to be “technical” then that’s what we try to do, if it needs simplicity or a hook, then that’s what we go for. It’s true though that we really value making songs memorable, replay value of a song is something we take pretty seriously now more than we used to. In the past we would write songs that would just kind of go in a straight line, riff after riff, now there almost has to be some kind of hook or catchy moment or the song usually just doesn’t feel complete to us.

Musicscan: Listening to the Monarchy quite a bit now, I have been noticing a little more groove and flow. Would you agree? Is this something guys tried to do with the new stuff or did the writing process just head in that direction?

Rivers Of Nihil: Yeah definitely, a lot of that stuff was created with a lot of intention. I think the groovier moments were sort of a result of the touring we did on TCSOL, we noticed how well some of those passages from that record worked in a live context and wanted to see if we could expand on it on the next one.

Musicscan: Which are the songs of Monarchy you enjoy the most to play live and why?

Rivers Of Nihil: For me personally, I really like to play the title track, it’s got great groove and the basslines are super fun to play. Also Sand Baptism is always fun, it’s got a nice big catchy chorus and it’s always fun to see people sing along to it. Reign of Dreams, Dehydrate and Perpetual Growth Machine are fun ones too.

Musicscan: How did you develop your style since Monarchy was released? As you are touring a lot, I can imagine that touring in particular has a huge impact on your style of playing and your way of songwriting?

Rivers Of Nihil: With Monarchy having an almost two-sided effect (one side heavier and one side more progressive), the touring has shown us what songs work the best in the live setting and which ones worked better on record. It’s a little too early to tell just how much impact this will have on future material but it will most likely have some effect for sure.