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Album review: RIVIẼRE – Heal

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To the joy of what is probably a great many people, 2016 is finally over.

RIVIẼRE - Heal

The celebrity-killing, Brexit-voting, Trump-electing monstrosity that we have decided to call a year has finally come to a gracious close and, as bad as it was for numerous reasons, 2016 was actually pretty great for metal.

From Gojira to Metallica to Ihsahn, an absolute ton of bands really knocked it out of the park when it came to new music. However, after a strong twelve months from the metal world, the challenge now falls to 2017 to keep the momentum of heavy music going strong.

One of this year’s first releases, Heal – the debut album by post-rockers RIVIẼRE – does all that and more.

A French quartet that unleashes sonic rumblings from the concrete jungle of Toulouse, the melodic upstarts do not represent the dingy, underground, urban disillusionment of the big city in the same way classic bands like Black Sabbath did.

Rather, with an uplifting yet heavy and experimental style, RIVIẼRE sounds like they are screaming from the idyllic French rooftops with a positive message of enlightenment.

Blending the vocal delivery of Deftones’ Chino Moreno, the heavy–clean dichotomy of TesseracT, the instrumental talent of Skyharbor and the songwriting skills of Deafheaven, Heal may just be the all-encompassing experience that modern prog lovers have been waiting for.

Even though this is not a concept album, this is still a record that must be heard in its glorious entirety for it to have to maximum impact. Probably the best thing about Heal is the way it seamlessly flows throughout its 53-minute run-time, moving forward constantly like an ocean while other albums just feel like a collection of stand-alone and unconnected tracks.

Furthermore, the album is entirely clean, never resorting to distorted or growled vocals to desperately fit the “metal” label.

It has its heavy moments, of course – the best being the hard-hitting opening to ‘Binary Love’ and the main riff on ‘Satin Night’ – but above all else, they still feel organic and honest. It is easy to tell that RIVIẼRE aren’t heavy at times in a bid to appeal to metalheads; they are heavy when they find it appropriate, using hard riffing as just one technique at their disposal.

It is plain to see that Heal is an honest record, opening with the eight-and-a-half-minute single ‘New Cancer’ in an age where the mainstream music consumer doesn’t seem to have time for a song if it isn’t under five minutes and available on Spotify: out of the seven songs on Heal, only two (‘Cobalt’ and ‘Binary Love’) venture beneath the six-minute mark.

But what is there to not like about this record? Well, at times, the lead vocals can fly too close to the sun and sound distractingly similar to Chino from Deftones but, aside from this, there is very, very little to criticise. Heal is the most promising start to 2017 any music fan – metalhead or not – could ever hope for.

Its cleanliness and sheer technical talent are awe-inspiring, to the point where if ever there is a music fan blabbering about the “narrowness” of metal and how “it’s all just screaming,” this is the album to use to shut them up.

Heal will be available physically and digitally via Basick Records on 20th January.

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