Ah, October. The month of changing colors and the impending onset of winter. The shadows get longer and there’s an air of mystery enveloping the world. Perfect time of year for some music that reminds you of the inevitable end of all things! Riven definitely does that with their take on funeral doom, combining the spookiness of a slowed down metal track with the cheese factor of a horror movie. What’s not to like here?
Riven is the solo project of Tom Mesens, aka Zeromus, of Antwerp, Belgium. He performs all instruments on his own plus the vocals. What he creates is a very atmospheric kind of funeral doom. It really does set a scene as he’s combining the traditional metal guitar, bass, and drums with synthesizers and the sounds of organs and church bells. It’s really classic occult and horror elements combining the music with images he evokes. Personally, I see a lot of scenes of cobwebbed candelabras, dank and stormy nights, lightning coming through the windows, and the pale face of a long dead vampire enjoying the scene from a high backed chair.
What we get is a very droning kind of sound. His synthesizer chords sit atop a throne of guitar and bass riffs and spaced out drums combined with the harsh gurgling lyrics during the stretched-out tracks. It evokes the lo-fi images from 70s horror to a surprising degree. The lower production quality on the record then seems very purposeful. Everything on the record just sounds rough but more due to the fact that this was a decision chosen instead of just playing with what you have near you.
Riven does exactly what he sets out to do: make very spooky funeral doom. He doesn’t stray too far from that at all. All of the tracks are plodding exercises in droning doom. While it would be difficult to just pick one track, the intro track “The Plague” sets up the whole scene. The swirling wind and ethereal synths are an excellent way to set you up into the jarring organ chords that take you aback. After the build up, the bubbling grunts from Zeromus come in. Instead of taking the main stage as most vocals do, it’s mixed in with the rest of the track. It adds more texture to the song instead of being front and center. At this point, this is the sound of impending tragedy. You feel on edge as though there’s someone watching from the shadows. It really is a work of interesting art considering the production values. Truly something to behold.
Riven is definitely one of those bands that you have to hear to experience. I could rattle off a lot of words about how the music sounds, but none of them would do justice to the tracks. It’s so atmospheric that you really need to listen to it with good headphones going. Might be good to get out some horror media and see how that adds to the music. Since this review is getting released on Halloween, you should really enjoy it immediately. Get cozy, turn down the lights, get out your copy of Dracula, and rip some Riven.
Hail to the King is out now and available for purchase and streaming on the band’s Bandcamp page.