Where Owls Know My Name is the third full release by Reading, Pennsylvania metalers Rivers of Nihil, and their fifth overall. It’s been three years since their well received release, Monarchy, and apparently they’ve used that three years to expand the parameters of their sound.
WOKMY is decisively more progressive than RoN’s previous works, as is made evident immediately from the ambient opening, and quickly reinforced with the introduction of saxophone in the bridge of “The Silent Life.” This is the most recent of many prog metal bands featuring saxophone, a trend this writer hopes isn’t ending soon. There are also moments of trumpet, flute and plenty of atmospheric passages that hearken back to the jazzy sounds of bands like Pink Floyd and King Crimson.
This album also features a heavier dose of keys than previous releases. Track three, “A Home” is a densely layered piece, hinging on truncated mellotron chords, à la Steven Wilson, before confidently delivering dissonant guitar riffs. The bridge of this track settles into a brief but effective clean vocal section that leads into a guitar solo that would feel at home on a 90’s Ozzy Osbourne track, and all of this done deliberately and seamlessly.
As proggy as it is, make no mistake—WOKMY is anything but tame. RoN preserve, if not enhance their technical chops on this album. It is heavy as hell when warranted, but vastly more dynamic than previous releases. New drummer Jared Klein holds nothing back, unleashing mind-bending blast beats and staggering fills throughout. And for all their furiosity, there is a nuance to the drums that is intoxicating. Subtle, off-beat snare accents add a spice that ties the technical drumming to the progressive flavor we are served throughout.
The vocals are harsh and punchy as ever, but are more adventurous than this listener has come to expect from RoN. Perhaps the most impactful moments are the very last lines delivered on the album. Jake Deiffenbach’s angry and introspective voice seems to relent here, giving way to the sounds of a broken, defeated speaker to linger with the listener as the album concludes.
In “Subtle Change,” we hear many different voices, including an effective chorus of layered harsh vocals with the clean voice of Andy Thomas of Black Crown Initiate. The saxophone returns here as well, accompanied by a delicious bass section and an indulgent if not playful keyboard solo. The track ends with a section apparently denoted “Dissatisfaction Dance,” an anything but dissatisfying (ha ha ha, quite) outro of flute and acoustic guitar.
And from a King Crimson-esque outro we are brought into the gripping, industrial “Terrestria III: Wither,” which, yet again, delivers a sound new to this band, or any other, for that matter. This track slowly builds to a climax of contrasting sounds—Organic, melodic winds beside gritty, synthetic guitars and keys. The track is a short instrumental interlude that boldly declares, “you are wandering uncharted lands.”
The album has an almost improvisational quality to it, and yet everything is decisively in its place, as though RoN spent the past three years experimenting and then honing every bar, as well they might have. It is bold, dynamic, engaging, and never dull. WOKMY is easily the band’s most impressive creation to date, and leaves this listener excitedly anticipating what’s to come.
FAVORITE TRACK: “A Home”
RELEASE DATE: 3/16/2018
FOR FANS OF: Black Crown Initiate, Fallujah