With the overwhelming success of 2018’s Where Owls Know My Name, Pennyslvania’s Rivers of Nihil could not have set expectations much higher for a subsequent release. 2021’s The Work proves to be an extremely polarizing album—one which will meet those expectations for some and fall far short for others.

The album is unique in its focus on both simple, clean interludes and extremely avant garde, industrial experimentation. The problem is, both styles miss the mark, and often come off pretentious, relying on mixing techniques and dense layering to create new sounds where inspired melodies might have been. Instead, we are lost in a labyrinth of casual stoner rock and simple, droning riffs that lack the melodic spine that carried Owls so confidently. Though the album is not without its gems, even the more realized tracks feel lost amongst the rest. The one consistent element of the album is the lyrical theme, which we are incessantly badgered with. As a whole, the album is vexing in that it is either overly ambitious, or is far too lazy, with experimentation generating both the truly awesome as well as pitifully dull.


Keep a dictionary handy for this one. Time to bone up with Allegaeon’s newest release, Apoptosis. With this, his sophomore performance, Riley McShane solidifies himself as the band’s fully-capable, and versatile vocalist. The guitar licks on the fifth studio album from Allegaeon are fervent as ever, and we are treated to some excellent melodic passages that break up the intense, sonic assault of scientific jargon with sophistication—evidence of a consistently excellent band still at the top of their game. (more…)

Undying Light, by Fallujah, has been this writer’s most anticipated album since first hearing of the departure of standout death metal vocalist Alex Hoffman. Would the band maintain an unmatched level of excellence and innovation, taking the next evolutionary step and weathering their personnel change in stride? In a word—no. New vocalist, Antonio Palermo’s higher pitched screams fail to excite the way his predecessor’s did, often bleeding into the guitar riffs, which themselves are repetitive and droning. The technical skill of the band is not in question, but the songs themselves feel uninspired and rarely distinguish themselves from one to the next, leaving Undying Light the least engaging, surprising, and memorable album of an otherwise intimidating catalog. (more…)

Well, it’s Soilwork, that’s for sure. This is a band that, as one of the forefathers of melo-death, has found a formula, and, by George, they’re sticking with it. Verkligheten hardly breaks any molds. With few exceptions, the track list sticks to predictable, simple riffing that smacks of early 2000s metalcore as well as to the band’s usual screamy verse/clean chorus structures. The few attempts to evolve their sound, including guest vocalists and a few retro riffs fail to keep Verkligheten from sounding like recycled (composted?) Soilwork. (more…)

If The Magic School Bus was a German progressive death metal band, it would be The Ocean (or The Ocean Collective). Of all the ways one might be exposed to the geological periods of the Earth, the music of The Ocean is by far the most brutal, dramatic, beautiful, and entertaining. Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic picks up where 2007’s Precambrian left off, continuing the epic chronological accord of the Earth’s geologic past in stunning fashion. Where Precambrian succeeds, Phanerozoic exceeds, surpassing all greatness already established by these titans of the genre, with this, the first of a two album package. We are treated to flawless and enthralling narrative structures, ever dynamic and dramatic passages that constantly excite and carry the listener along, aided by a diverse range of vocals and instrumentation that evolve yet remain rooted to the concept. (more…)

Immersion, the latest from Belarus’ Irreversible Mechanism, has all the ingredients of a masterpiece without the refining touch of a true master. This album feels as though Irreversible Mechanism found the recipe for a Fallujah album in an issue of Martha Stewart Living and just went for it. All the ingredients are thrown in, from the ambient interludes to the technical guitars and tortured screams, but the doses aren’t properly measured, and the flavors aren’t adequately blended, unfortunately. (more…)

Hopefully you like songs describing the collapse of the universe in the most convoluted way possible, because Obscura have given you ten more of them. Diluvium is the fifth release from this German, progressive technical death band and the final in a series of related concept albums. The concept of Diluvium is almost too all-encompassing, as nearly all the songs are similar both lyrically and in their instrumentation. Minor shortcomings aside, Obscura once again display nearly unmatched technical skills, effortlessly blending intimidating guitarwork with entrancing melodics, making Diluvium one of their strongest releases to date. (more…)

It’s been a while since Between the Buried and Me released Automata I, and now, after months digesting it, we have the second half, the aptly named Automata II. I praised the first half as being one of the better BTBAM releases, despite the mysterious choice to split what we now see is clearly intended to be one complete product. The music on the first half was every bit up to snuff with prior releases, pulling from some of the best sounds of the Colors era and adding some clean, minimalist refinement. Now, part two continues that trend and takes a detour into the zany, as we ought to expect by now. Overall, the entire package is a worthwhile endeavor. The lyrical theme of being lost in a dream-state carries throughout the two parts, and they flow seamlessly from one to the next. Regardless of whether we approve of it being released in parts, BTBAM can do as they please when the music is of this quality. (more…)

Remember Dimmu Borgir? Well they’re back, in prog form. Eonian is Dimmu’s first album in eight years, following 2010’s Abrahadabra. What sets Eonian apart? Well, simply put, this album sounds more like Epica than Dimmu. They’ve gone whole hog, banking on big choral vocals, strings, horns, keys, and there’s guitar in there, too. (more…)