The Work is a 64-minute journey into the increasingly ambitious world of Rivers of Nihil. 2018’s very well-regarded Where Only Owls Know My Name introduced more progressive elements then the previous album did, and the end result of this same evolution is showcased on The Work.
To roughly describe the Rivers of Nihil experience in 2021 you’d have to combine the band’s old sound with elements of bands such as Between the Buried and Me, Pink Floyd, Faith No More, Devin Townsend, Ihsahn, Thy Art Is Murder, Korn, Nine Inch Nails, and a range of others.
The Work can’t really be considered a death metal album, at least not exclusively. The band’s bursts of modern death metal and deathcore are still aspects of their sound, but are no longer the defining or even the dominant ones. It’s still a colossally heavy record in places, but it’s also a sensitive, dramatic, heartfelt, soft, and tender record, (along with any number of other expressive emotions you wish to name). MORE? and 11-minute album closer Terrestria IV: Work are probably the tracks that in their entirety come the closest to the band’s previous sound. Most of the other songs carry a mixture of different styles, old and new, while some, (such as Maybe One Day), basically sound nothing like the band we knew before this album. Rivers of Nihil have become a multi-genre, multi-vocal, progressive metal monster, and I have to say that this suits them very well indeed.
The Work is an epic journey into Rivers of Nihil’s world. It’s like exploring a 70s progressive rock odyssey, only one that’s been updated and delivered in a contemporary style. It’s not just the saxophone use and the various noises, sounds, and synths and that give The Work this feel either, it’s something that sits at the very root of the music; this is modern music that has learned from the past and recreated itself into something multifaceted and richly delivered.
Speaking of saxophone, it’s more subtly integrated into the band’s sound this time around. There’s only one sax solo, for example; most of the time the instrument is used to highlight other parts of the music.
Across the album there is ever more emphasis on emotion, layering, atmosphere, and textured nuance. The band have taken the elements incorporated on their previous album to their logical conclusion, resulting in a very creative and idea-laden collection of tracks. The songs are very well-written, and the band’s ambition has not exceeded their talents. There is a lot packed into the album’s running time, so many textures and creative avenues to wander down, that fully absorbing everything takes multiple spins at the very least.
Well, I was expecting something good from Rivers of Nihil, but I have to say that this record is quite remarkable. The Work is a powerful, sophisticated modern progressive metal album.
Essential listening for any extreme or progressive metal fan.