Rivers of Nihil – Where Owls Know My Name (Technical Death Metal)

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Let me start with saying that Rivers of Nihil is as a matter of fact one of my favorite techdeath bands and have been for years now. Together with bands like Beyond Creation, Archspire, Decrepit Birth, and Spawn of Possession it’s a band I always go to when I have the urge for some technical and progressive metal. There’s always been a feeling that Rivers of Nihil has never unlocked their full potential though and in some ways lacked in their own sound and identity. That being said I had really high hopes for Where Owls Know My Name as the singles I’d heard before were really something completely different from their older music which seemed to have sparked something brand new.

For those unfamiliar with Rivers of Nihil the band was formed in 2009, hailing from USA, has two EPs and two full-length albums released prior to Where Owls Know My Name. Their albums are focused on the different seasons, with the past two albums “Whereas the Conscious Seed of Light” and “Monarchy” were about Spring and Summer. Where Owls Know My Name obviously continue walking on this road with the focus here being on Autumn. The music have always had a lot of emphasis on creating an atmospheric feeling to it more than your common techdeath band which makes the band stick out in my eyes but also means, for some, Rivers of Nihil is a band you get or you don’t. Some even going as far as saying this isn’t technical death metal. Each to their own I guess, I don’t really care if they are labeled atmospheric techdeath, prog, jazz or whatever personally I think Rivers of Nihil are doing a superb job creating music that has a lot of emotion to it with sweet melodies and brings harmony, no matter what label you put on it.

Where Owls Know My Name takes their song-writing to a whole other level. Rivers of Nihil have really captured the atmosphere of Autumn with this one, especially with the great use of keyboards, trumpets, cellos and saxophones that makes this album a whole other beast than their previous releases. It’s really impressive and I get a new feeling each time I take the album for a spin. It is an album I do feel you need to be in a certain mood to listen to though in order to fully grasp and understand it though, seeing it is quite different and the influences are many. They’ve left most of their core sound behind and this album has gone even further into the atmospheric sound than ever before, even having a jazz feel to it. Breaking their own boundaries. That to me is a much welcoming move but I can see it perhaps leaving a few fans shaken up by it. Rivers of Nihil have only evolved though and grown even better in my eyes. Where Owls Know My Name is one of the best albums released this year that gets even better with each listen. This is what technical death metal is all about to me, full of emotions through instruments, breaking barriers, creating an atmosphere you could only dream of. Just listen to The Silent Life, A Home, Where Owls Know My Name or the instrumental track Terrestria III: Wither and you’ll see. It might not be for everyone but for me it’s close to a five, the bands best album to date, and I can’t wait to hear what Rivers of Nihil do next after having ascended into a new being.

Label: Metal Blade Records
For fans of: Decrepit Birth and Fallujah
Release date: March 16th, 2018
Favorite song: The Silent Life
Score: 4.5/5

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The Metal Gamer Best of 2017

Another year another best of the year list! This one is long overdue as I planed to post this several weeks ago but something always came in the way. Some of you might know I also write for Swedish site Rocknytt and I’ve of course submitted a best of to them as well. Difference from that list versus this one is that, just as last year, my list here will be based on albums I’ve reviewed in this blog. So the two lists will differ but I rather keep my blog to the more underground music (even though I do review some mainstream stuff as well). Some big changes to this year is that the list is now a top 40. I’ve added some more categories as well with best debut, concert and more. List is in no order (except for the categories I’ve chosen) and without further ado here it is, The Metal Gamer albums of the year!

Album of the Year: Archspire – Relentless Mutation
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The complete Top 40:
Archspire – Relentless Mutation
Trivium – The Sin and the Sentence
Havukruunu – Kelle Surut Soi
Decrepit Birth – Axis Mundi
Ereb Altor – Ulfven
Evocation – The Shadow Archetype
Dying Fetus – Wrong One to Fuck With
Mordbrand – Wilt
Hour of Penance – Cast the First Stone
King of Asgard – :taudr:
Firespawn – The Reprobate
Svart Crown – Abreaction
Mordbid Angel – Kingdoms Disdained
Shadow of Intent – Reclaimer
Desultory – Through Aching Aeons
Coffin Creep – Corpse Defiler
Hideous Divinity – Adveniens
Inanimate Existence – Underneath a Melting Sky
Shaarimoth – Temple of the Adversarial Fire
Throne of Heresy – Decameron
Amentia – Scourge
Legacy of Emptiness – Over the Past
Dzö-nga – The Sachem’s Tales
Solbrud – Vemod
Ofermod – Sol Nox
HerezA – I Become Death
Svartsyn – In Death
Entrails – World Inferno
Oceano – Revelation
Lorna Shore – Flesh Coffin
Enterprise Earth – Embodiment
Wolfheart – Tyhjyys
Mors Principium Est – Embers of a Dying World
Persefone – Aathma
Benighted – Necrobreed
Gutslit – Amputheatre
Corpse Garden – IAO 269
Falls of Rauros – Vigilance Perennial
Rings of Saturn – Ultu Ulla
Ne Obliviscaris – Urn

Deathcore album of the year: Shadow of Intent – Reclaimer
Technical death metal album of the year: Archspire – Relentless Mutation
Death metal album of the year: Evocation – The Shadow Archetype
Atmospheric black metal album of the year: Solbrud – Vemod
Black metal album of the year: Havukruunu – Kelle Surut Soi
Debut album of the year: Coffin Creep – Corpse Defiler
Best concert I went to in 2017: Avenged Sevenfold, Disturbed and Chevelle (Royal Arena, Copenhagen, March 4th)
Five albums I missed but need to listen to:
Necrot – Blood Offerings
Phrenelith – Desolate Endscape
Fit For An Autopsy – The Great Collapse
Azarath – In Extremis
Wolves in the Throne Room – Thrice Woven
Most anticipated album of 2018: Necrophobic – Mark of the Necrogram

Spectrum of Delusion – Esoteric Entity (Technical Death Metal)

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You can never get too much quality techdeath in your life. Spectrum of Delusion knows this and despite this being a debut album coming from a country that’s not really produced a whole lot of techdeath, namely the Netherlands, this band can rock. Spectrum of Delusion has taken it’s time since their formation in 2013 to produce a debut that will be a great starting point, leaving nothing to chance. One of the bands that basically came from nowhere in my eyes but released a killer techdeath album last year was Virvum and I get a lot of the same vibes when listening to Spectrum of Delusion. Both bands took a long time in order to release their debut (granted Virvum took way longer) and both have done really well to release a debut that shakes up the scene, gaining a lot of new fans and leaving people wanting more. Mission accomplished.

Esoteric Entity might not offer anything you haven’t heard before but what they do offer is an insanely tight album with few errors. This has been 36 minutes of joy to listen to through and through. However I do feel like the start was a bit slow compared to the ending of the album. The last three tracks on the album Unborn Tragedy, Mixotrophy and Timelines are really great tracks that shows Spectrum of Delusion on form while the first songs were just good. Which in a year where techdeath has really thrived with top releases from Origin, Decrepit Birth and Archspire just to name some won’t break them into the higher tier of things. At the same time though this is the bands first album, a good one at that, and I am sure this will pave the way for even better releases to come in the future. Spectrum of Delusion is a band I will have an extra eye on to see where they go with their next release. For now I am happy with a tight debut that makes me hope they can be the next big thing within the genre.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SpectrumofDelusion
Label: Independent
For fans of: Virvum and Tethys
Favorite song: Unborn Tragedy
Score: 3.5/5

Archspire – Relentless Mutation (Technical Death Metal)

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Archspire is a band which first got me into techdeath together with Revocation, Beyond Creation, Nile and the likes only a couple years ago. With that said I’ve never truly got into them, not as much as with Beyond Creation for example who I rate as the best techdeath band there is. However Relentless Mutation has changed me. This album alone have made me go from liking the band as they were one of the first bands I heard from the genre, to a band I know will call myself a fan of.

I already knew I would change my view on them as the singles they released were all top class techdeath. The opener Involuntary Doppelgänger I’ve heard countless of times by now and when it kickstarted this album I still find myself enjoying it. The album keeps on blasting me with sheer force, world class riffs and a trip around the universe unlike any other. Any song on this album would be a good pick for my favorite song section, because in all fairness they are all of insanely high techdeath quality but they are a couple songs that sticks out. It’s the albums title track Relentless Mutation that wins it for me in the end. The tempo-changes and musicianship shown on that track makes every single hormone in my body that produces happiness.

Archspire have blown me away and as someone who haven’t really seen the greatness in them before this is a big surprise. It will be really hard for me to pick the best techdeath album this year between Decrepit Birth’s Axis Mundi and Archspire’s Relentless Mutation. Both masterpieces in their own rights that should be in any metalheads collection.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Archspireband
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Archspireband
Label: Season of Mist
For fans of: Beyond Creation and Spawn of Possession
Favorite song: Relentless Mutation
Score: 5/5

Decrepit Birth – Axis Mundi (Technical Death Metal)

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Here comes another release from a band that shouldn’t need any introduction. Decrepit Birth, formed 2001, are definitely considered one of the best techdeath bands in existence with their last two albums Diminishing Between Worlds and Polarity being masterpieces. It’s been seven long years since Polarity came out so Axis Mundi is a long awaited album for many metalheads out there. So how does Axis Mundi hold their ground against the rest of the bands discography?

I’ll say this straight away, Polarity remains my favorite album from Decrepit Birth but Axis Mundi is a damn close second. They do differ quite a bit in sound and approach of style so that being said Axis Mundi is another beast all together. Again a top class release to add to their already great discography either way. They are still a force to be reckoned with after all these years. Whereas I had some problem with Origin not being brutal enough Decrepit Birth still is. The riffs, the solos, vocals, drumming and production, Decrepit Birth nails it all yet again with Axis Mundi. Be it Spirit Guide, Hieroglyphic, Transcendental Paradox, Mirror of Humanity or Epigenetic Triplicity you will have a freaking good time. The instrumental track Embryogenesis and Orion are also personal favorites of mine. I mean hell as you already see that’s more than half the album right there being instant techdeath classics of mine. That’s how good this album is. I just can’t grasp how many times I started to headbang as there was a sweet tempo-change with killer riffs or solo going on for days in my mind as I air-guitar away on my seat. The change from being more towards the progressive death metal side on Diminishing Between Worlds and Polarity to mixing it up with adding the more brutal sides they had on …And Time Begins is what makes this yet another masterpiece from them. Which means it doesn’t matter which album you like the most from Decrepit Birth, they have something for everyone in here!

For me this is the best technical death metal album released so far this year. Axis Mundi will be one of the albums every band will want to beat and I am not sure anyone can. Decrepit Birth made a wonderful return with Axis Mundi and I hope we don’t have to wait seven years for another album.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/decrepitbirth
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/decrepitbirth
Label: Nuclear Blast and Agonia Records
For fans of: Origin and Necrophagist
Favorite song: Epigenetic Triplicity
Score: 5/5

Amentia – Scourge (Technical Brutal Death Metal)

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From Belarus a techdeath band named Amentia have come to surprise us all with some of the best brutal technical death metal you will hear all year. They might not be a household name within the genre, yet, but Amentia have existed since 2003 with Scourge being the bands third full-length release, six years after their sophomore album Incurable Disease. Having never heard of the band myself I was caught off-guard by the bands tight riffs and blasting drums. To me this is close to a perfect score, everything just seems to hit the right notes at the right times.

Not a single song on the album is even close to being bad and Scourge has been on repeat several times these past days. Only thing is that the songs tends to be a bit indistinguishable which makes it hard for the songs to stand out to one another. Sometimes that can be a good thing, sometimes not and in this case I would like there to be some more variation. In a year when heavy hitters like Decrepit Birth, Suffocation, Hideous Divinity and Hour of Penance are releasing killer techdeath Amentia are making a great effort to stand tall next to those monsters. This is the perfect opportunity to get to know a great upcoming band with an album you do not want to miss.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/amentiabelarus
Label: Satanath Records / Amputated Vein Records
For fans of: Defeated Sanity and Decrepit Birth
Favorite song: Noble Death
Score: 4/5

Origin – Unparalleled Universe (Technical Brutal Death Metal)

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From the crazy White Ward jazz-post-black metal experience I go to something I feel right at home with. It’s time to review one of the technical brutal death metal greats, Origin. A band which has given us mortals some of the best brutal techdeath that’s ever existed since their formation in 1997. Since then the band has released one EP and Unparalleled Universe will be the seventh full-length release, something very few techdeath bands have even done actually. With heavy hitting albums like Antithesis and Omnipresent fresh in mind how does Unparalleled Universe stand next to them?

Have to be said Origin still got it, even seven albums and 20 years into their career. However I lack that Wrath of Vishnu, The Aftermath and All Things Dead feel to it. It’s a good album but next to a discography like Origins they almost slay themself. I always hate reviewing albums like this in all honesty. When a band has a really good discography should they get punished for releasing something not on the very very top? I mean if this was a debut or even a sophomore album I would say something along the lines of “omg this is one of the best bands that will tear the future apart!!!”. I don’t know, this is a freaking great album but knowing what Origin has done in the past I know I can expect more. A great album doesn’t cut it this year within brutal death metal, not with Dying Fetus, Broken Hope, Decrepit Birth and Suffocation getting releases out. Mithridatic, Dajjal, Burden of Prescience and Origins longest track as of yet Unequivocal are the highlights of this album and especially Unequivocal makes me go all headbang mode and presents Origin in top form. It’s a good album and any Origin fan should get it. As I said they still got the touch. However I know there is more brutality to be unleashed from them, some songs are just too soft for my liking to make this a real heavy hitter as an Origin album should be.

Unparalleled Universe is out now through Agonia Records in EU and Nuclear Blast in the US. With this review I am also bringing back the score scale, this time instead of a 1-10 scale it will be a 1-5 one. 5 being the highest grade and 1 the lowest.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Origin
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/OriginBand
Label: Agonia Records (EU) and Nuclear Blast (US)
For fans of: Nile and Decrepit Birth
Favorite song: Unequivocal
Score: 3.5/5