Thursday, December 6, 2012

Tripping along The River Neva

Forget verse-chorus-verse. Toss out the “here’s where we play a breakdown” formula. Don’t go looking for a big guitar solo. Just let The River Neva wash over you; actually the listen won’t be quite so gentle.

The River Neva has its own take on the prog-death dynamic that is rejuvenating the metal scene at the moment. In the case of this Worcester, MA, quintet, the music has melody, which gives you something to hang onto as a song barrels forward, but nothing on the band’s EP “Chemistry of Holocaust” sounds predictable or otherwise provides familiar safe haven.

Catching up with singer Trey Holton and bass player Jake O’Connor_ vets of the Central Mass metal scene_ both say they have never really been part of a project like The River Neva.

“This band is pushing me vocally and I know it’s pushing the other guys as well,” Holton says.  O’Connor concurs, saying some of the complex bass lines he comes up with now would have had him tossed out of a few of the bands he used to play with.

The boundary-busting begins with guitarist Grizz Gagnon who is the band’s main songwriter. Credited by his band mates with having a taste for music by Periphery and Veil of Maya, Gagnon cooked up songs that are both brutal and adventurous.

“There’s a smartness factor,” says O’Connor. “This is not the band if you just want to hear chug-chug-chug.”

Instead you get “Corpse in Blistered Feet,” a song with a perfect death metal title and vibe yet mixes in some clean vocals and a lurching tempo that creates coiled tension.

The River Neva teamed with producer Rob Gil (whose credits include albums by Hatebreed and Unearth) to make “Chemistry of Holocaust” and that’s when the band honed its sound.

“He fooled around with our sound in the studio and then we started writing and rewriting in the studio,” Holton says. "Every time I went into the studio before, everything was all set down in advance.”

But there’s no denying the success of the approach used here. Holton points to “Burn the Note to Jesus,” the most sinister track on the EP, and says how Gil totally reworked the vocal lines because he heard an anthem waiting to get sprung.
The River Neva

Guitarist Chris Abbott and drummer Eric Zarazinski round out The River Neva lineup. The band headlines a Toys for Tots benefit happening Sunday Dec. 9 at Tammany Club, 43 Pleasant St., Worcester, MA. The all-ages show starts at 2 p.m. and also features Fuel of War, Tester, Mucklers Circle, Burns From Within, the Circadian Rhythm, Blackheart Epidemic, Faces of the Fallen, and John Monstro. Admission is $10 or $5 with a toy to donate. The River Neva goes on around 8:15.

The River Neva also has shows on Feb. 2 at Church, 69 Kilmarnock St., Boston, MA, and Feb. 8 at Silk City, 99 Main St., Florence, MA.

Holton says the band is tossing a couple of new songs into its upcoming live shows but for the most part is sitting on the rest of the new material getting prepped with Gil for a full-length release due out next year After all, things tend to change as the process moves along.

Other holiday happenings for metal fans include the Christmas Chaos Show happening Dec. 15 at Elks Lodge, 81 Roxbury St., Keene, NH. The show starts at 4 p.m. and features My Missing Half, Eyes Set West, Help Me Kill My Ex, No More Lies, Side Effects may Include, and Monarch.

Then on Dec. 27, it’s Black Christmas at the Palladium, 261 Main St., Worcester, MA, with Conforza, Pathogenic, Murdoc, and a World Without. Show time is 6 p.m. and the show is in the upstairs room.

 And buy all means if you're out tonight, Dec. 6, stop into Ralph's Diner in Worcester, MA, for Metal Thursday. Abnormality tops the bill.

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