Rivers of Nihil took a huge creative leap on their third album, last year's Where Owls Know My Name, incorporating elements of electronica, jazz, alternative, folk and more into their established technical death-metal sound, realigning the Pennsylvanian quintet along a much more expansive and progressive path. The evolution was a deeply important and personal move for the band members. "Music is art, and art is ever-changing," guitarist Brody Uttley said at the time. "Without change, there is no progress. Without progress, the very fire that powers art and expression will die."
Driven by his intense connection to music, and ahead of Rivers of Nihil's upcoming headlining tour, Uttley reached out to us to contribute to our "Songs for Black Days" series, presented in partnership with Hope for the Day, in which artists share some of the compositions that has helped them through dark times. Below is what he offered up.
This is probably one of the first songs that I remember listening to as a teenager and somehow — at the age of 15 or whatever — experiencing the feeling known as "nostalgia" for the first time. I felt like my childhood was rushing by me and I was in a big panic to make the years slow down, but that's obviously not how it works. I remember going out to Colorado with one of my best friends at the time and listening to this song over and over again on my blue iPod nano. That trip was one of my first trips that I ever made by myself with a friend, so I really felt like I was growing up. The line "With all the changing seasons of my life maybe I'll get it right next time" always hit me hard, even at the fresh age of 15. I guess I never stood a chance and I was always destined to be a nostalgic weirdo!
I came across Mac very recently — sadly, after his untimely death — and a lot of the songs from Swimming really hit me hard at a pretty important time in my life. It's definitely a super sad and dark record disguised as a happy record. The song "2009" particularly spoke to me because I graduated from high school in 2009 and began my journey into the world, so the title connected with me before I ever even heard the song. Lines like "I don't need to lie no more, nowadays all I do is shine/Take a breath and ease my mind" or "I was diggin' me a hole big enough to bury my soul/Weight of the world, I gotta carry my own" were super reassuring to me. This whole record has been the soundtrack to the last year of my life. I highly recommend checking it out. I think Mac came to a lot of big realizations about the human experience and what it meant to be happy just before he passed away. Rest in peace.
Growing up my dad was always playing CSNY and Neil Young solo music in his car. This track is the story of a young man drawing parallels between his own life and that of an older man when he was younger. Getting older is a bittersweet thing to me and I think that this song perfectly captures what its all about. Long live Neil Young.
This is, for sure, a darker one. I heard this song for the first time at one of my friends houses while I was extremely drunk. We were watching the NIN live DVD and when this came on I was instantly like, "Whoa, what is this?" I had recently been fired from my longtime job, I was making very little money, I was drinking a lot, and making generally bad decisions at this point in my life. "What if everything around you isn't quite as it seems? What if all the world you used to know is an elaborate dream" just kind of summed up how I was feeling at that point. Rivers of Nihil wasn't really doing anything, I was super depressed, and I couldn't really believe that things in my life were going the way they were. Luckily for me, things got better, but this track definitely was on heavy repeat during that time. It was one of those songs that made me feel REALLY awful, but for whatever reason it also made me feel a little more hopeful since I felt like Trent was really speaking to me.
Coldplay is one of those bands that has ran a pretty steady thread through just about every era of my adult life. I think their first four records are absolutely perfect and they get way more hate than they should. The album that this track is from is when I feel that the band was at their progressive peak. A lot of really unique ideas on this album that I feel were generally overlooked. The song "Death and All His Friends" closes with the line "And in the end we lie awake and we dream of making our escape." I vividly remember listening to this song the night before my first day at college and just thinking, "What the fuck am I doing? I don't want to go back to school. I just want to play music." A few semesters after that I dropped out of school and I have been on tour ever since. I guess the parallel here is that my "dream" was to "escape" from normal life and pursue a life as a nomad. Guess we will see if that ends up working out!
This Will Destroy You along with Explosions in the Sky was one of the first bands that introduced me to post-rock. Without this band, Rivers of Nihil probably wouldn't sound how we do. TWDY's use of the e-bow, reverb, delay and electronics are fucking phenomenal and they were definitely super inspirational to me and my writing once I become aware of them. This tune is another one that I used to listen to a lot while I was out driving late at night, thinking about life and reflecting on the past. I recently got to see them live for the first time. They played this song and it was REAL hard for me not to cry like a baby.
Steven Wilson is one of my favorite musicians ever. His entire discography is just amazing and I take huge inspiration from what he does. This song is a slightly different one for him. When I first heard it I was a little confused, but upon hearing the lyrics, along with the beautiful guest performer that he has on this track, I was absolutely hooked. "I'm tired of days to come, I'm tired of yesterday" is a super bleak line that hit me real hard when I heard it. I came across this record at the tail end of writing our newest album and it really inspired me to push through the last bit of writing that had to be done towards completing the album. The song closes with the line "Nothing really dies, nothing really ends." I think that it's a cool way to end such a sad song because it leaves the listener with hope.
This is a big one. Anything that Sam Beam does I absolutely fucking love, but this song is super important to me. I used to be a pretty self-destructive person, and I still am to some degree, but when I first heard this song it FOR SURE helped me see how harmful my behavior was being to the people around me, my band and girlfriend especially. I wasn't addicted to drugs or anything like that. Rather, negativity was what I was using to hurt people around me. Any good situation that I found myself in, I somehow managed to sabotage it until it was no longer a good situation. The line in this song "Please remember me, my misery, and how it lost me all I wanted" pretty much perfectly summed up what I would sound like as an old man if I were to continue down the path that I was on. I'm by NO MEANS perfect now but I think I've learned to enjoy things a little more now knowing that most things in life are fleeting. No need to ruin the few good moments and scenarios that we experience during our short time on earth. Highly recommend everyone getting into the works of Sam Beam. I really think that he is one of the greatest writers of this generation. Much like a Dylan, Nick Drake or Neil Young of our time.
I love this band. A lot of people starting hating on them when they changed their sound on this record, but it's definitely when I really "got" the band. This record tells the story of singer Kyle Durfey reflecting on his own life before, during, and after the passing of his parents and, in particular, his father. One of the things that I am more afraid of in the entire world is the thought of losing my parents. It is an inevitable part of the human experience but it is something that I really hate thinking about. Unlike so many people in the world, I really believe that I had a great childhood with parents that really cared about me. Everything good in me is because of them. This song and record as a whole really took me to a totally new place that I had never been to mentally. The orchestration of the instruments on this album is absolutely breathtaking, and Kyle Durfey's story being told over top of it all is just devastatingly beautiful and important. Lines like "And I got your picture sitting on the sink/You were so young, so skinny, so quick to laugh/And water dripped and hit your cheek in the right spot/It ruined my week, when I just wanted to wash the filth off" just knock me over completely when I think about the scene that is being described. I've never seen these guys live, but in some ways I'm almost afraid to do it because of how hard the emotion would hit me. Hug your parents, and if you're not near enough to do that then pick up the phone and tell them that you love them.
Every day in America, 121 people die by suicide. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of resources.