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THE RIVER Drawing Down The Sun Retribute Records (2006)

The River The River is an apt band name for the indomitable path forged by their music. In the same way that water wears away everything in its path, the listener is forced into submission by its high quality. It also represents their depth and the undulating journey the listener is taken on by this, their debut album.

The River have a pleasingly light touch in their composition which gives the music room to breathe. They favour a slow, heavy and fuzzy wall of guitar sound, dovetailed with quieter, melodious passages which further establish Christian and Stephen’s exceptional guitar and bass handiwork respectively.

Effectively a four-piece (if you include vocals), The River’s drumming may come to the attention more readily than more complex music. Fortunate, then, that their drumming bears the inspection well, striking a perfect balance between repetition and variation, with lots of nice fills for the connoisseur. Christian does get a bit carried away at the end of 'Amber' but, hey, when it sounds this good who’s complaining? And it doesn’t stop there. The vocals are the icing on the cake - clean female vocals that sound effortless. This is not the operatic trill that often grates, particularly when the vocalist tries to over-reach their ability. The bittersweet sadness of Vicky’s vocals express the desolate lyrics well and add to the atmosphere created by 'Drawing Down The Sun'.

The first track, 'A Close Study', is a re-working of the track taken from their demo 'Different Ways To Be Haunted'. Slightly faster than the original, this serves to enhance the descent in tempo towards the end of the track. Descents are, I think, an underused but very effective technique, and this one is performed with a great deal of élan.

'So Down' brings the album down a gear, being slower than the first two tracks. The intro to this track is one of the few which bears a very slight resemblance to another band, as the guitars remind me of the beginning of Warning’s 'The Return' from their album 'The Strength To Dream'. Although The River have trace elements of other bands, such as some of the groove of Pentagram perhaps, or a respectful nod to Black Sabbath here and there, they have carved out their own unique sound.

Sometimes being unique means that a band become a bit of a one-trick pony, but 'Drawing Down The Sun' stands testimony to The River’s ability to add interest and variety to their oeuvre. A case in point: the more delicate guitar work of 'A Relation To Absence', coupled with the lack of drums, provides an 'intermission' to the brain-flattening riffs and affords the band a platform to demonstrate a slightly different aspect of their music.

'Drawing Down The Sun' has allowed The River to demonstrate the breadth of their ability, like a satisfying main meal after the appetisers provided by The River’s demos. What’s for dessert?


Review by Amanda Hyne

Band website

Label website

**** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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