(By Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker, Lead Journalist/Writer, RiffRelevant.com)
Occasionally, when reviewing certain releases, there are times that I ask myself: “How can (insert band name here) not be a HUGE, well-known major act?” It is then that I recall the plethora of once-great bands that experienced a commercial, breakthrough success and what resulted after. Pompous or lame, mediocre self-indulgent wastes of studio time in so many cases. But alas, whatever.
Nashville, Tennessee’s RIFFT are one of those bands that I was alluding to at the start there. Their 2016 EP debut Something Other Than The Earth impacted me quite hugely and was certainly one of last year’s best offerings. Sure, it was flying low under the radar for most folks but thankfully, I wasn’t one of them. I absolutely wore that one out and in fact, I still yet jam it quite regularly.
So just imagine my surprise recently when an unexpected e-mail announcement arrived of a NEW release from RIFFT! Those fellas from the world’s country music capital, Cody (guitarist/vocalist), Jeremiah (bass), Jason (drums) and Trey (guitarist/vocals) were back with the very antithesis of country music, “The Never Nowhere“. It could not have been released on a better day either, a certain music journalist’s very own birthday so yeah, talk about a hella gift!
With this new 5-song offering, RIFFT delves much deeper into the audio realms they stepped into last year. This time, they trek ever further into a more progressive metal territory but they do so with enhanced atmospheric nuances. But in doing so, they do not shed an iota of heaviness or crushing density when it is called for.
Intro cut “Creature” is a perfect example of what I’m stating, from the building, effect-heavy guitar at its start, there’s energy in the air. Things eventually combust into some massive stoner doom riffs and gargantuan rhythms, all driven by plodding drums. The dual-harmonized vocals and ambient textures that pepper the track at times are pure creative excellence.
But, don’t get too comfortable there as “The Butcher” will do exactly that to your peaceful calm. Explosive post-hardcore abrasion takes the reigns right from the start only to yield to some divergent vocals and music. One minute aggressive and gruff, the next, generating golden grooves. And I don’t know how this will sound but the damn guitar solos are incendiary but oddly, ring of an Eighties touch to me. Don’t ask…I can’t explain.
What I CAN explain though is the heady chug of track three, “Ocean Of Pestilence“. It rumbles along and then detours into some solid, tranquil tones and powerful singing…sedate yet assured. The mid-song reduction of instrumentation sets the spotlight for some lonesome, isolated guitar parts that wail and wander along… taking you right along for the ride. The melding of contrasting time signatures, energy levels and the ultimate avenues of their delivery are beyond awesomeness.
For all of the fantastic content within these first three songs, I personally felt enthralled with the pair of back-to-back tracks closing out this effort. The first, “The Never Nowhere” title track, reaches a cadence-like unfurling and is hard to disregard. It seems to evoke determined head-banging worthy moments at its utmost leveled-up state but offsets them with periodic ethereal vocals. There’s a subtle ebb and flow, or crescendos and crashes, embedded within the track that cannot be resisted.
Alas, as good as it all has been thus far, it has all been a preparation for the album ending powerhouse that is “Double-Headed Eagle“. It too quickly finds a type of rise and fall in the chugging riffery and spiraling descents that permeate its beginnings. From there, RIFFT take us into some entrancingly dense heaviness, such with an almost Godflesh-ian type nature to it. The guttural-tinged, aggressive vocals are fitting but before you know it, things totally one-eighty and the harmonic cleans come soaring in. All while epic doom riffs resound about and navigate this descent to its ultimate final resting place.
Yes, RIFFT have truly outdone themselves with their new release, “The Never Nowhere“. It is a release constructed with sonic grandeur, where mighty aural expanses abound and take hold. The heights and depths they explore seem to traverse engulfing, open areas but do so with precise, tightly knit compositions. Equally free-floating yet captivating simultaneously and I could not have asked for a better present at this moment in time. Check it out via the Bandcamp embed below (as a NYP – Name Your Price – item) and see if you do not ask yourself that very same question…
“How can RIFFT not be a HUGE, well-known major act?” Let’s remedy that but do so without compromise or allowance for corruption.