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The River Neva - "Chemistry Of Holocaust" (CD/EP)

The River Neva - "Chemistry Of Holocaust" CD/EP cover image

"Chemistry Of Holocaust" track listing:

1. Night Of The Long Knives
2. Nameless Patriarch
3. Corpse In Blistered Feet
4. Burn The Note To Jesus
5. Wading Through Chemicals

Reviewed by on May 12, 2012

"Cloaked in a peculiar atmosphere of burning darkness that grows in strength through earnestness rather than cynicism."

There sometimes comes a point in the subgenre classification game where you throw up your hands and say, “I give up. It’s just metal.” The River Neva is one band likely to elicit such a reaction, and these days, that’s a mark of future success. While hardly the first act to blend varying components of progressive, thrash, melodic death, and metalcore, this Massachusetts quintet does it with such ease that all attempts to pigeonhole them go floating down their vast Russian namesake.

In marksmanship, even the cleanest and best-built rifle won’t make you shoot straight. And in music, especially metal, abundant technical proficiency isn’t worth a damn unless you harness it all with memorable songwriting. The River Neva accomplishes this, zigzagging between styles and tempos while maintaining a consistent spine, as with a satisfying dramatic narrative. Hooks are set up and dutifully paid off, and the whole affair is cloaked in a peculiar atmosphere of burning darkness that grows in strength through earnestness rather than cynicism.

Much of that atmosphere is attributable to vocalist Trey Holton, who, when he stops barking to sing, sets aloft an ethereal hybrid of Fear Factory’s Burton C. Bell and Evergrey’s Tom Englund. This haunting croon, offsetting a torrent of guttural croaks and hair-raising yowls, nears perfection on “Corpse In Blistered Feet,” the disc’s dramatic apex and most pristine specimen of Americanized At The Gates-esque melodeath – in the tradition of All That Remains’ “Behind Silence And Solitude.” The preceding tracks, “Night Of The Long Knives” and “Nameless Patriarch,” put a more schizophrenic spin on said formula, placing syncopated double-bass rhythms, breakdowns, and dual lead guitar salvos in unexpected places that somehow work. While “Wading Through Chemicals” makes a definitive statement the way only a six-minute closer can, the standout track that fully represents the band’s eclectic sound is undoubtedly “Burn The Note To Jesus,” a thrashy number with shout-along lyrics and a reservoir of energy perfectly suited for live performance. Impressive as “Chemistry Of Holocaust” is, you’ll be left wishing it contained more balls-out anthems like this. Perhaps an eventual full-length will do just that.

Massachusetts’ worthwhile contribution to U.S. metal did not end once Killswitch Engage became a household name. The scene remains a volatile cocktail of creativity, building on its past and redefining itself for a new decade – as evidenced by this sharply produced collection of songs with the potential to draw listeners from various spheres of the metal genre.

Highs: "Burn The Note To Jesus," "Corpse In Blistered Feet"

Lows: For all its progressive prowess, the disc could use another straightforward anthem.

Bottom line: A dead-on-target debut EP - of equal parts precision, intensity, and melody - that is sure to inspire repeat listens.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)