Concepts And Riffs: A Conversation With Rivers Of Nihil

Some say life is for the living, but in order to truly live I believe life is for the dreamers. The creative people who put no limits on their exploration of the world around them, who take risks when others would play it safe, they are the ones who truly live. They accept that their perception of reality differs from everyone else and they embrace it. They find a way to hold a mirror to their soul and they show it to the world. Things don’t always work out the way they desire, but when their body is lowered into the ground and people throw dirt on their coffin they can rest knowing they tried. When everyone else turned back, they forged ahead and embraced whoever they felt they were meant to be.

This brings me to Rivers Of Nihil, otherwise known as the Metal Blade Records artist you should probably be listening to, but for some reason haven’t gotten around to completely devoting your life to just yet. Their new album Monarchy drops this Friday, August 21, and it is absolutely killer. The growth from The Conscious Seed Of Light to now is undeniable from the very beginning, and the evolution in storytelling, not to mention technical skill, is downright jaw-dropping. We have been jamming the album around HQ for the last several weeks, but you can get a taste right now using this handy stream:

Rivers Of Nihil are at a pivotal point in their career. They are largely a support band in the world of touring, making very little to open for large bands while hoping their brand builds to the point they can one day headline. This means every show is as much about selling the new album as it is simply trying to make people give a shit. That’s a tough balance to manage, especially when your new album is the second in a planned four-part concept album that takes place in a reality that is nothing like the world we know today. Somehow, the band is pulling it off, and with each round of live dates their recognition in metal seems to further develop. We believe they are the future of heavy music, and we know they’re reaching that point by being entirely themselves.

Recently, Rivers Of Nihil bassist Adam Biggs hopped on the phone with us to discuss Monarchy, touring, and the state of metal today. It was a fascinating conversation that shed light on the band’s work in the studio, as well as their hopes and goals for the future. They know they have big plans, but they’re determined to make them. You can read highlights from our conversation below.

H: Monarchy is a great record. I’d love to talk a bit about the concept behind the album, as well as the outside influences that added to its final sound. You have a story that runs through your catalog, but I’ve read there was also a lot of real life influence on this album. Can you shed a little light on the creation of this record for us?

AB: Great question. You’re actually talking to the right guy about this because I’m the guy who writes 90% of the lyrics. The influence from Brody is based on the actual music itself. Brody has always written the majority of our music and I think you can really hear him dealing with some personal struggles as the album progresses. That’s where his role in this album’s sound comes into play.

As for the story of the record, it’s kind of a complicated plot, but it continues a thread that was started on The Conscious Seed Of Light. That album dealt with a bunch of stories from different people who inhabited this planet throughout history as they ascended into a state where they are one with their planet. They become this voice, the conscious seed of the planet. At the end of the record everything unravels when a solar flare kills the majority of life on the planet. Now, millions of years later, there is a new race of life developing on that planet, and that is the story we are telling with this record.

H: I love big concepts. You are essentially the member of the band responsible for maintaining the narrative found within your albums, as well as our ability to follow it. Can you tell us about the challenges you face in telling a story as big and unique as this through music?

AB: It has admittedly been kind of a bumpy road as far as that is concerned. On our first record, there were a few songs I felt really served the narrative well, but there were also tracks from our first EPs thrown in that kind of diluted the story. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted from a concept album, but with this one we got a lot closer. We were able to start from scratch musically, and before we wrote anything I knew the direction I wanted to take with the story. I knew the title, I knew the story I wanted to tell, and I was able to present to the band up front. Brody is going to write what he’s going to write. I don’t rule with an iron fist or anything, but I do tell everyone where I feel certain things need to go in order to tell the story or set a certain mood. I think things worked our pretty well with this record.

H: Could not agree more. I have to say, my favorite part of the record is the middle. The concept as a whole works, but I think you find your stride somewhere around “Ancestral, I.”

AB: Interesting. I was initially worried that part of the record may be a bit too close to death metal for our fans, but what I’ve heard from people who have the record already is the opposite. They seem to dig the heavy stuff, and once the album starts to pull back a bit they go along with it. That kind of feedback is really sick.

H: Is there anything behind the title Monarchy? I have to say, I expected another title along the lines of The Conscious Seed Of Light.

AB: Originally, the title I had in mind was ‘The Monarchy Of The Sun,” which is pretty much the tag line from the title track. I decided to draw back a little bit though, just because I liked the idea of having something short and percussive. Monarchy. Bam. There it is.

It ties into the concept as well. The people living in this society have a Monarchy, and throughout the album we detail the way they live their lives. Hopefully people pick up on that (laughs).

H: I was actually going to bring up the sun because he appears in your new video. How did you manage to wrangle the most popular star in our galaxy to appear in the footage?

AB: You know, we just sent him an email. We told him we appreciated his work and wanted him to appear, and thankfully he got back to us.

H: Did he hang out at all?

AB: Yea, he hung out on set all day. I gave him a high five and it pretty much torched my hand. He had to leave at one point to heat the other side of the planet, but we understood.

H: Let’s talk about the single a bit. What lead you to choose “Sand Baptism” as the track to promote the new album?

AB: From pretty much the first time I heard that song, even in instrumental form, I was telling everyone it was the one we needed to share with people. Something about it just clicks.

H: When it comes to bringing the new material and story elements into the live show, what can fans expect to see this fall? There is something awesome about catching you live because there is a story being shared, and before now your shows basically shared that story without issue because there was only one album of material to pull from. The new album adds more songs, which I imagine only complicates your ability to tell a clear story in a live setting. Is that something you concern yourself with much right now while on the road?

AB: Most of the sets and tours we are doing right now are support slots. That kind of thing is something I want to work on in the future. Maybe after the story is completed we can do something to commemorate our work before moving on to the next thing, but for now when you catch us live you’ll see a collection of tracks from both records.

H: That makes sense for a band in your position. Right now it’s about getting people to care at al. Once that happens, then you can share your story.

AB: Exactly. Once we’re in a position to make a production out of it we will see what happens. Until then, we just want to put on a great show.

Monarchy arrives in stores August 21 through Metal Blade Records.

James Shotwell is the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. He is also a professional entertainment critic, covering both film and music, as well as the co-founder ofAntique Records. Feel free to tell him you love or hate the article above by connecting with him on Twitter. Bonus points if you introduce yourself by sharing your favorite Simpsons character.

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.