Published Feb 04, 2019Rivers of Nihil's saxophone-laden Where Owls Know My Name received plenty of critical acclaim, even landing them on best of 2018 lists and round-ups, but the Pennsylvania technical death metallers might ditch horns entirely for its follow-up.
Guitarist Brody Uttley and vocalist Jake Dieffenbach sat down to speak with Exclaim! TV's Aggressive Tendencies on their June/July 2018 Canadian tour and revealed that although they hadn't yet begun writing, conversations were leaning toward a nasty, dirty and disgusting direction.
"I don't want to say a noisier or more gritty release, but I guess that would probably be what we've discussed so far, since I feel like on this record people have kind of — 'Oh, the saxophone, that's the sax band,' or this or that," explains Uttley. "I feel like at this point people are kind of expecting us to just keep the ball rolling in that direction and go the way of like a Mastodon did, where after Crack the Skye they started having more and more songs with clean singing and got more of a mainstream kind of thing going on."
The release will be their fourth LP, concluding their seasonal motif with a winter record, which makes the more catastrophic direction all too appropriate. Although they don't sing directly about the seasons — Uttley jokes that an autumn record won't have a song about pumpkin patches — the season informs the musical mood and, yes, the lyrics.
The pair recount the story so far. Debut LP The Conscious Seed of Light (the spring record) ends with a solar flare wiping out the majority of the planet, while its summer follow-up Monarchy finds the survivors going to live in crevices in the earth because there's no water. Where Owls Know My Name is centred around a sentient being, pictured on the cover, who has been alive for thousands of years.
Dieffenbach elaborates, "He's carrying the weight of the entire planet's memories on him, with him, and he kind of lives through those experiences," though Uttley is quick to clarify the character gets the "sweet release of death" at the end of the record, leaving the story's future uncertain.
They were certain that they didn't want to get pigeonholed as "the sax band," though, and approached its inclusion on tracks like "The Silent Life" as such. The guitarist explains there were plenty of open spaces on the record where they could have put a way-too-long guitar solo or tripped it out, but they opted for the woodwind touch.
"I think that the amount of sax that's on the record and the context of it, at least from my point of view, I think that we did it in a way where it's not like BOOM here's the sax part that we just threw into the song because we're going to get that sax cred. It was a super natural thing."
Ultimately, the band understand why its become a talking point for fans who aren't familiar with other extreme metal featuring saxophone, such as Ihsahn, Fleshwrought and the Faceless.
The interview ends with Uttley explaining their contentious guitar tone and why the popular perception doesn't match his goals.
"Thanks to certain recent trends in heavy music, having a clean but distorted guitar tone kind of gets pigeonholed with the D-word: the djent word. In the death metal community people hear it and they'll kind of be like, 'Oh, that's kind of djenty,' or whatever."
You can watch the whole interview in the player below.