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The River : En No Ozunu

Vicky Walters isn't featured on this latest Ep from UK The River, and she is truly missed.

Two minutes, fifty-one seconds. Thatís the moment when alarm bells begin to ring. ďSomebodyís missingÖĒ they chime, as the opening track of The Riverís 'En No Ozunu' EP lumbers into second gear.

That somebody is Vicky Walters, the vocalist whose gentle, sombre tone once helped to raise The Riverís music to celestial levels. And her absence from 'En No Ozunu' is keenly felt. For while Walters was forced to work with some slightly immature lyrical content on 2006ís mini-classic 'Drawing Down The Sun', it was she who grabbed the attention of a stagnant UK Doom community that had yet to hear Warningís imminent masterpiece 'Watching From A Distance'. In some quarters, the London bandís front-woman was once dismissed as a gimmick, so itís ironic that while the issue seven years ago was the inclusion of a female singer, the problem now is the lack of one.

Two of the songs here are instrumental versions of older creations, suggesting that The Riverís stream of ideas might have run dry in the four years since their last release, the polished but uninspiring 'In Situ'. The low-tuned buzzsaw guitars are still there, accompanied by shuddering bass lines that evoke Pallbearer. And there is an occasional Kyuss vibe, although The River are too morose to ever really let rip.

The lack of vocalist means that the band has to be imaginative in their efforts to maintain the listenerís attention. And in their lighter, textured moments, it is possible to hear genuine quality in their understated craftsmanship. There is little reliance on feedback-soaked monotony to create tension. Rather, The River let their musical curiosity run free, exploring sunshine as well as darkness. 'En No Ozunu' is named after a 7th-Century Japanese mystic, and there is a certain Far Eastern delicacy to their arrangements, particularly on the closing track 'Ozunu'.

This Ep is an atmospheric and interesting effort, but it does not get the blood pumping in the way that fans of the bandís previous work might have hoped. In 2006, with Vicky Walters centre-stage, The River promised greatness Ė or at the least, very-goodness. Far from justifying those early expectations, this release serves only as a reminder of what might have been.

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Reviewer's rating: Unrated


Tracklist :
1. If Only
2. Medley
3. Opaque
4. Ozunu

Duration : Approx. 28 minutes

Visit the The River bandpage.

Reviewed on 2013-07-01 by Steve Bidmead
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