Creating somewhat of a notoriety among the Death Metal scene in the US, Rivers of Nihil are fast becoming a leading band in the revolution of modern Death Metal. A revitalised sound, each album is anchored in the hallmarks of the Death Metal charm, yet with their latest album, 2015’s Monarchy Progressive elements have begun to infiltrate the band’s sound. On their first ever European tour, we were lucky enough to be able to speak to Rivers of Nihil guitarist Brody Uttley. Though you would imagine both western territories of Europe and the US would be similar each is a very different ordeal. Frought with new challenges on the road we spoke about everything from David Bowie to the four songs the band have written for their brand new album and the importance of the seasons in Rivers of Nihil’s thematic tapestry.
Listen to our Soundcloud file for the unedited audio interview or read the full transcript of the interview below that!
I’m here today with Brody from Rivers Of Nihil. How is the tour going?
Good! Day four, its our first time in Europe and we did two dates in Germany to start and then we did Netherlands last night and tonight we are in London. Its good, this is our first time here and its just been nothing but new experiences and the crowds have been really cool. Everyone is really nice, the hospitality in Europe is so much better than in the United States.
Oh my god its insane. The amount of attention to detail that the promoters of the shows have had is insane. Whereas in the US you kind of get treated like criminals sometimes, not that bad, I;m exaggerating! Compared to this, I think that the hospitality has been awesome. Its been pretty cool so far.
What have the European crowds been like in contrast to the American ones?
Well we’ve toured a lot in the US so we have a bigger fan base there, a growing fan base. A lot of Hardcore kids that will come out to each show and mosh or whatever if they knows the lyrics and stuff. A lot of these crowds, they’re not super familiar with our music because this is our first time here but it seems like when we first start playing, the crowd is a little sceptical. Kind of like, or at least in Germany they were, I’ve heard in Germany they’re very strict as far as what they like and what they don’t like. It seems like when the sets begin people are wondering what we’re all about but then after the first song it seems that everyone is really into it. Last night was awesome in Harlem last night. That was an awesome show, I think there were about 500 people there something like that? European crowds are definitely different, they pay more attention to what were playing and less attention to shoving each other around. They want to hear us play our songs the way they sound on the albums it seems like. I think that’s cool, being that I am a guitar player and that I record stuff in a studio at home, I’m always paying attention to detail so I think that when fans of the genre can appreciate that as well its pretty cool!
Do you think that’s because its Progressive Death Metal?
In a way. You have those kids in the United States for sure but in the US its kind of split down the middle. You have the guys that come to the show because they want the heavy mosh like stuff and then you have the guys. Musicians musician who really want to see the players play but I really feel like European crowds are just much more focused on what we’re doing on stage as a band and less about just slamming into each other. We had some mosh pits last night which was cool but this being our fourth show tonight its been really awesome so far. The tour package is perfect for us, when we heard about the offer we said if we were going to go to Europe for the first time we should do it with these bands because it makes sense.
It works perfectly. Your new album has been out for a while now, how has everyone been receiving it?
Really well! This album did a lot of goof for us as I hoped it would. Our last record, we toured a lot on it but we didn’t spend a whole lot of time writing that record. In a way it feels kind of scatterbrain, whereas Monarchy, our most recent album is a much more focused piece of work. I’ve seen it not only online but at shows, we’ve doubled our fanbase since the last record. We honestly haven’t toured that much, not as much as we did on the first record but I have seen us grow twice the size. I think that because we changed production a little bit, we made it a little cleaner sounding, more modern sounding I think it got a whole lot of new listeners on board and got them into our sound. Its been really good. Considering we haven’t toured that much on this record its crazy to see how many new fans we have gained just by releasing the record.
This was the first record with Biggs on?
Oh no, Biggs the bassist, me and Jake our singer are the three original members and then John our other guitarist that was his first album with us and the drummer who played on Monarchy, conveniently left the band after our CD release show because he wanted to focus on stuff at home. The guy who played on Monarchy is not actually touring with us and hasn’t been on this whole album cycle. We have a new drummer, Dylan Potts, who is amazing and he is killing it every night. He’s the best drummer we have ever had for sure and he is easy to get along with. Having a blast because he went from being in a local band and now he’s in Europe. Its been a cool experience for him I’m sure. The line up is really solid now and everyone pulls their weight.
What’s the rest of 2016 got in store?
Well for the rest of 2016, we’ve got a show in Canada with Beyond Creation in December but I don’t think that we have anything else for the rest of the year because we’re kind of closing in on the end. We have stuff for January booked that I can’t really talk about yet but really we’re going to be focusing on writing the next album, we have four songs done right now and I think that after we get home from this tour, we’re really going to try and slam out the rest of it. Possibly get into the studio of late Spring 2017. I don’t know when the release would be but possibly a fall 2017 release. That depends on how quickly we write the rest of this album, we’re going to try and do it quickly but not too quick that its scatter-brained and sloppy!
Is it going to continue, I remember the last time that we spoke that you mentioned the albums are based on the cycle of the seasons. So this one would be Autumn?
Yep it would be Autumn and that’s why I said Autumn for a release because it would be cool to release it in the season. We released Monarchy in the Summer as it was Summer themed. We kind of messed with the first record because it was Spring album and we released it in the Fall. I want us to try and do that with each season just to get people in the mood a bit. Put that on during that time of year and feel those feelings. This one’ll be Fall, I don’t write any of the lyrics, that’s all Biggs and Jake, I just do the music. The stuff that we have so far, is kind of continuing down the whole of possibly the second half of Monarchy. The more progressive tracks, it kind of continues in more that vein. I just finished writing this song before we left for tour, its our fastest song we’ve ever had. We’re not losing any heaviness at all, we’re just kind of adding on with the whole progressive sort of sound which is a natural thing for us. We’re all musicians musicians and hopefully released in the Fall. The songs so far, I’m really proud of them.
Its interesting that you wanted to release it around that time. I have thought this when you release an album at a particular time of year, sometimes you can listen to it and sometimes you can’t. Is that something that you have always had with music?
Like what I listen to personally?
Yeah, I would say that during Fall I would listen to a lot more Post Rock kind of stuff. During the colder months I’m more into that kind of sombre…
Oh yeah, Blackwater Park is like the necessary album for Autumn. It seems though that this past summer I was listening to a lot of heavy music. With the new Meshuggah coming out and everything, there’s a lot of other killer stuff that came out, the new Revocation, so I was listening to quite a bit of Metal over the Summer but in the colder weather seasons I kind of tone it down a bit. Not everybody is like that, I think releasing our record in the Fall it would be cool because we would almost force people to listen to it during that time of year but we will see what happens.
Do you think that the new drummer will contribute various different things that you might not have had before?
Yeah, Dylan is like a very different drummer than Alan. He never used, when you play live you use triggers for the kick drums just to help with it cutting through the mix. He never used triggers before joining this band, so what he did was he just hit the drums insanely hard and hes like one of the most powerful Death Metal drummers I have ever seen. We’re playing tempos upwards of 250 beats per minute and he’s slamming the drums so, so hard and it sounds so good.
He’s a really different kind of drummer, whereas our last drummer Alan, I don’t want to say was a finicky kind of drummer but he was a little more busy, not in a bad way! Dylan is kind of more in the pocket kind of drummer in the groove and when the Death Metal comes along he’s a power house. He’s like a huge fan of all kinds of music, he’s got a giant Tool tattoo on one arm and A Perfect Circle on the other. He’s not just like a one track Death Metal guy, he listens to everything. Karnivool is his favourite band, he’s always whipping out really strange drum beats that I have never heard before at practice. It should cool to see what he does.
What about in terms of writing, is it always kind of that you will write the bulk of it and then people will write their parts?
Yeah, I mean that’s usually what happens. I’ll usually write out a whole song, I’ll program drums to it and that will just be an outline of what I heard the parts like. Then I give it to the other guys, Biggs will write his Bass parts, Jake and Biggs will write lyrics and Dylan will make his own drum parts. John, our other guitarist, he’s written a song as well for this record. I’m sure that he is going to write more. He did one on the last record but I think he might do more on this one. As far as our actual songs go it seems that one of us writes it entirely or the other one does. Its not a whole lot of collaborative style, just because we live so far away from each other. He lives in New York and I live in Pennsylvania which is about a three hour drive but its closer to seven hours with crazy New York traffic. We try to get as much done at home as we can and then bring it to practice. We tweak stuff together but we each will write the bulk of the song and then go from there.
Somewhat of a topical theme as its Halloween coming up, what has been one of your favourite Horror movies and what is one of your favourite Horror movie villains and why?
Horror movies. Hmmm I watch a lot of them, I watch so many bad ones too! I really liked The Conjuring movie, the first one, I saw the second one and didn’t like it as much. That was a pretty well done Horror movie just because it didn’t rely on typical jump scares, it had a much more eerie vibe to it. Cabin In The Woods is pretty cool! It seems like its going to start off as this stupid cheesy, there’s girls and guys camping in the woods and the bad man shows up but then it goes in the most insanely dark direction. I don’t know if those are my favourites but they’re two that came to mind.
Chris Hemsworth when he smashes into the panel is pretty awesome!
Yeah haha exactly, good stuff.
I remember when I walked in and thought “I’m in the wrong film!” What has been your worst Halloween costume?
Well actually I do know! I used to work at a Health Foods store as a cashier and one year me and my friends wanted to go out trick or treating and I didn’t have a costume so I took a paper bag and cut some holes in it and put it over my head. Pretty stupid but that’s probably the most stupid one, I’m really a huge costume guy. At least since I have been a kid. I mean, you know that was pretty stupid, pretty lame and pretty lazy. Did the job though! I got the candy!
What has been a record that you have been listening to for the last six months to a year?
Does it have to be a new record?
Well I really like that new Zenith Passage record, we’re like best friends with those guys. It goes beyond us just being best friends. I think that that album is amazing, in the Death Metal world I think that was my favourite release of this year Death Metal wise. As far as non Death Metal stuff, Pink Floyd is my favourite band along with Steven Wilson.
I’ve been listening to a lot of The Wall, a lot of The Final Cut and a lot of Animals. Also the new David Bowie record has been another one that has just been insane. Me and Adam, our bassist, are huge into that record. The overall message that he left us with and just the darkness of that album is insane. I would say Blackstar for non Metal stuff, The Zenith Passage for Metal stuff oh and just Pink Floyd. I’m always on rotation with Pink Floyd, I do their whole discography, front to back and I don’t get sick of it. I’m weird I guess!
I understand what you mean about Blackstar.
Yeah, oh my god. It was crazy. I was never like a hardcore David Bowie fan. I was a hits guy but then when he put that out and died, I checked the record out and I was blown away. That and in parallel with the music videos that he released for it was just nuts.
Especially when he died, it takes on a completely different meaning as well. That’s some groundbreaking stuff right there, I think its the first record written about a persons own death. Knowing that they were going to die and dying when the record came out. It makes sense for him because he’s never done anything in a standard kind of way. Hearing that record, it made me go back through his whole discography and its just been a lot of David Bowie this year strangely. I never thought that I would be a fan but we’ve been listening to a lot.
Rivers of Nihil’s brilliant ripper Monarchy is out now via Metal Blade.