Rising from the ashes of BURNT BY THE SUN, East Coast outfit RIVER BLACK brings together former guitarist John Adabuto, vocalist Mike Olender and drummer Dave Witte with newcomer Brett Bamberger joining the fold. Describing themselves as a cross between metal, hardcore and darkwave they bring their self-titled debut album which was recorded at the famous Trax East Studio in New Jersey, where bands such as THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN and HATEBREED have cut records over the years.
Given the wealth of experience the quartet have under their belt, it’s unsurprising that they’re very assured of where they’re going and what they can achieve on an album, and this benefits River Black immeasurably. The opening number Jaws is chock-full of breakdowns and squeezes in as many as possible in the space of two minutes to great effective. The hardcore elements combine brilliantly with groove metal on following track Honor and South x South is essentially a three-and-a-half minute mosh pit with added strings, following on nicely from the unsettling title track interlude. The stomp of MACHINE HEAD and LAMB OF GOD on the huge-sounding Boat are sure to delight fans of both aforementioned bands and there’s even an opportunity to bring in some slightly sludgier tones on Haunt. Throughout, Olender’s sandpaper vocals cut through to good effect and Bamberger sounds like he’s been playing with them for years, a boost given that the other three have actually been doing that.
There are a little niggles here and there, mind you. Lead single (and debut song) Low doesn’t get off to the greatest of starts with the stand alone vocal but recovers well to deliver another neat shock and, somewhat ironically, neither the likes of Shipwreck or Sink stay afloat in the listener’s mind for long enough to make much of an impact. Thirdly, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of ‘darkwave’ across the album. Perhaps it’s something that will become more apparent as time goes on, but if there was anything of that ilk included then it was far too subtle to pick up.
Nevertheless, RIVER BLACK, both as an album and unit, has the chops to back up their pedigree. There have been – and probably will be – better albums released in their field this year, but you wouldn’t have to look far to find something that isn’t as good as this.
River Black is out now via Season of Mist
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