River Black – River Black Review
Band: River Black
Album: River Black
Label: Season of Mist
Genre: Thrash Metal
Release Date: 07 July, 2017
So right out the gate it’s easy to figure out this is a Thrash album. On first listen, the music is straightforward and I found myself a bit bored. It was good but nothing extraordinary. Repeated listens brought out flavors I hadn’t noticed at first, bits of Hardcore, lots more Crust than I first gave it credit for, and some dynamics that just aren’t common to most Thrash efforts. The more I listened, the more I dug this.
River Black was put together by guitarist John Adubato and drummer David Witte (Municipal Waste) after their project Burnt By The Sun fell apart. Keeping the momentum of their former band going but pushing it into a darker and heavier direction, they brought in Revocation bassist Brett Bamberger and former Burnt By The Sun vocalist Mike Olender to round out the lineup. And thus, River Black was born.
So what did they bring us? Opener “Jaws” blasts right out of the gates, stomping, shouting, snorting with antagonism. The vocals are shouted, sometimes growled, the guitars aggressive and in your face, and the rhythm pummeling. There is no doubt where this band stands. They are going to beat you into the ground; lots of Hardcore here, with some slight Suicidal touches. Second track “Honor” gets to the Thrash point rather quickly, blazing and churning before settling into another pocket groove. And so the album goes, heavy to the core, never relenting in its dark, grimy approach. The production is crusty in a good way, giving it that extra grit and grime all good metal thrives on. They don’t reinvent the wheel here so much as spin it efficiently, and then add some elements here and there, some Death and Industrial and Hardcore, to keep it going in an interesting direction.
Some song highlights:
“Shipwreck” is the fourth song and it fires on all cylinders right away, the drums, the guitars, and the vocals chopping like synchronized machine guns, rat-a-tat shredding. This is the kind of music that gets the pit going. They pull back about a minute and twenty in to do some gang chants and then it’s back to the pummeling. But wait, twenty seconds later, we get something else. The song settles down, growling instead of barking, a melodic moment making the head bang and the body sway. This is a different groove all its own, the kind that moves the shoulders and hips. And it’s heavy as hell, grinding, like wringing a wet towel out by twisting it tighter and tighter. It’s moments like these that set River Black apart from so many other bands that play similar music.
Title track “River Black” is next and starts with a lonesome, dark violin, reminding me of State of Euphoria era Anthrax. And then the crunch comes followed by the rapid attack, and we’re off! It slows a bit 45 seconds in with a layered vocal effect (sample? Someone talking? I’m not sure which, but it adds a creepy layer to the song). Vocals range from growled to shouted to guttural, with some channel interplay. That violin returns (as does that weird voice) towards the end, leading to a truly eerie outro. This is really good stuff.
Album closer “Everywhere” crunches in all the right ways, with some piercing guitar hooks to add to the frantic feeling. Just like other songs, it rages, and at the end, it devolves into another weird collage of spoken word parts butting up against each other until it sound like a man alone in his dank basement, screaming against a world that does not understand him. An epic and haunting finale.
River Black have created a really solid debut here, with plenty for fans of different but related strains of Metal to enjoy. And while it’s often said that the Devil is in the details, it is absolutely true in this case. The tiny moments, the points where they stop being brutal and add elements of melancholy, creepiness, and slower, crustier edges, is where the band truly distinguish themselves. The Thrash field is crowded and choked with mediocre bands and it begs the question of do we really need any more bands to add to the noise? River Black answers with a resounding “yes,” and point to a bright future for a subgenre that is often dismissed.
5. River Black
6. South by South
Total Playing Time: 35:45