One of the sillier things that ever became popular in metal and hardcore are “kung fu kicks” in the middle of mosh pits but part of why that ever even became a thing was because, generally, kids in the crowd were trying to come up with some kind of intense way to show their appreciation for the music while, perhaps, protecting their heads from flying fists and elbows. That said, it’s still dumb, though, that seems widely acknowledged by now and most who participate in do so with an awareness of how it comes across. However, it didn’t stop it from becoming a thing, especially in the metalcore world and beyond.
Of course, this could also be oldguyyellsatclouds.gif complaining but part of mentioning this, even with my own personal disdain for the practice, the riffs and tempo shifts – these are crucial – had to be there to inspire such behavior in the first place. Most of the bands adhering to the style of say, Deadguy, Darkest Hour, and Every Time I Die, have been around for awhile and, for the most part, aren’t going away soon. We don’t see a whole lot of new ground being broken in the field, although we sometimes see new bands rise out of the ashes of others.
For River Black, they’ve taken what fell apart from Burnt By the Sun, gone into iconic hardcore studio, Trax East, and come back out with a self-titled album chock full of moshable, kickable metalcore and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. That said, it was always going to be difficult for 3 members of a band to re-form, add a new bassist, and successfully come up with something that didn’t sound pretty much like their previous act. In the chaos of this album, though, the band hit on some solid deviations from what they’ve established in the past.
One major improvement is the production. Taking a sound as aggressive as theirs and giving it a bit more polish works wonders in creating something that works much better for their particular metalcore vision. Another improvement is in the tempo changes working just a little bit better than in their previous incarnation and the tortured vocals of Mike Olender are deployed a little more consistently here. It’s also worth noting that the band come across as a more serious endeavor, no pun intended, than prior efforts.
All of that said, I’d gladly take their previous band’s The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good over the type of metalcore that they’ve entrenched themselves in ever since but, and I want to stress this point, this is perfectly fine, well-executed music of this type. River Black sets out their stall with a goal to create crushing metalcore on this album and that’s precisely what they do. So, if this is your jam be sure to check out the tracks that truly rip here including “Honor”, “Move”, and “Haunt” that all stand out for their own particular reasons, mainly that they don’t blend entirely into this band’s wall of sound and add their own touches to pull them out of the milieu typical of the genre. Basically, get this and go kick your friends in the face.
River Black is available now via Season of Mist.