2021 Best of Metal: #1 Rivers of Nihil-The Work

Origin: Reading, PA

Release date: 9/24/2021

Personnel: Jake Dieffenbach-vox, Brody Uttley-guitar/keyboards, Jon Topore-guitar, Adam Biggs-bass/vox, Jared Klein-drums/vox

And this year’s Golden Flip Flop goes to…….Rivers of Nihil!!

It feels like this band has been building to this moment from their very first release back in 2013. These guys started out as a very capable technical death metal outfit with their first couple of releases. In 2018, they kept the basic death metal framework, but decided to take a bit of a left turn and add quite a few proggy and atmospheric aspects to their sound with Where Owls Know My Name. This album portended something different about these guys. This was a band that wasn’t afraid to stay in one place nor were they afraid to break the normal genre-defining limitations a lot of bands feel the need to adhere to. The Work feels like the full realization of the vision first broached by Where Owls Know My Name. This is one hell of an ambitious work of art. It is challenging. It is jarring. It is beautiful. It is inspiring. It is heartbreaking. It is confrontational. It is complex. It is, simply, just a perfect fucking masterpiece of an album. It is most worthy of winning the best metal album of the year award and I simply haven’t been able to get enough of it since it came out. Congrats, Rivers of Nihil! Thank you for creating this gem.

5 flip flops out of 5

The final list:

1. Rivers of Nihil-The Work
2. King Buffalo-The Burden of Restlessness
3. Mastodon-Hushed and Grim
4. Gojira-Fortitude
5. Tribulation-Where the Gloom Becomes Sound
6. Dream Theater-A View From the Top of the World
7. Exodus-Persona Non Grata
8. Khemmis-Deceiver
9. Carcass-Torn Arteries
10. Omnium Gatherum-Origin
11. Be’Lakor-Coherence
12. Hooded Menace-The Tritonus Bell
13. Quicksand-Distant Populations
14. Harakiri For the Sky-Maere
15. Converge and Chelsea Wolfe-Bloodmoon: I
16. At The Gates-The Nightmare of Being
17. The Vintage Caravan-Monuments
18. Nervosa-Perpetual Chaos
19. Baest-Necro Sapiens
20. Agrypnie-Metamorphosis

Rivers of Nihil-The Work

By and large, the albums that come out during a given year are just fine. There are a few good songs, a few mediocre ones and some filler. Most of the time, the albums all follow a familiar formula. Rivers of Nihil is turning out to be one of those bands for whom the standard is unacceptable. Each one of their four albums has seemingly upped the game from its predecessor. In a world of typical and uninspired releases, The Work feels like an important piece of art.

Rivers of Nihil began life as an extremely talented technical death metal outfit. They managed to turn the metal world on its collective ear when they released Where Owls Know My Name in 2018 simply for the progressive metal left turn it marked for the band. They added clean vocals, they brought in a saxophone player and they simply changed up their sound into something quite magical and unique. The Work continues to build on the framework laid down on Owls and simply takes it to further unexplored sonic territories. Hell, while listening to it I kept thinking to myself that we are witnessing the birth of the death metal Pink Floyd. Seriously. I say that with zero hyperbole. This is a band to be reckoned with not only in the death metal world or the metal world at large, but they should be held in the highest esteem in the general music world. These guys’ forward vision and willingness to takes risks puts them squarely in vanguard of bands at the forefront of metal.

You should be proud of this one, Rivers of Nihil. It is a fucking masterpiece.

5 enthusiastic flip flops out of 5