Nile
At the Gate of Sethu

Nile’s Egyptian themed death metal has long since established the South Carolina veterans as leaders of the death metal pack over their decade plus recording career.  The death metal juggernaut can do no wrong in the eyes of many of their devoted fans.  But regardless of the accolades embellished upon the band, Nile are arguably past their best and while seventh album At The Gate of Sethu is a largely enjoyable, quality effort, it falls short of their prior works and is marred by inconsistent song-writing and troubling production.

The production is likely to garner as much debate as the songs themselves.  Nile’s trademark wall-of-sound approach has been replaced by a flat and largely sterile production that zaps the power of the compositions and comes across as thin and lifeless.  Whether this was an intentional new approach to change-up their sonic palette is open to debate but the results are baffling and the subpar recording limits the impact of the songs.  Song-wise, there are hints that Nile is running low on fresh ideas, with an overall lack of memorability and truly killer riffs detracting from the album.

Still, despite its flaws, there is plenty to sink your teeth into here.  All the Nile trademarks are in place; from the Egyptian-themed threads in the atmosphere and instrumentation, three-pronged vocal attack and of course the technical chops, dense riffing and frantic drumming that listeners are accustomed too.

George Kollias delivers a particularly precise, frenetic performance on the skins.   “The Inevitable Degradation of Flesh” has his limbs in a hyper-speed flurry of blast beats, blinding fills and relentless double bass.   The mid-paced groove around the three-minute mark should have the necessary weight to level pyramids but its power is overshadowed by the meek production; rendering the bass drums to clicky thuds rather than the hefty blows they should be delivering.

Although never a strong point for Nile, their trend of multiple vocals at the very least serves to add variety, well-illustrated on“The Fiends who Come to Steal the Magick of the Deceased”. The guttural growls and hoarse shouts are counter punched by an oddly melodic semi-clean chant of “I will embrace you” that actually fits well amongst the chaos.   This multi-faceted composition stands as an early album highlight; laced with quality riffs, fluid time changes and Nile’s technical flair and raw brutality.

“When my Wrath is Done” opens with a short burst of Middle-Eastern flavored acoustics before traversing a ragged structure of multiple tempo shifts, visceral riffs and wildly chaotic leads that cut a swathe atop the insanely fast rhythms underneath.Obligatory interlude “Slaves of Xul” breaks up the pace, its hypnotic rhythms offset by unsettling vocalizations and tribal chanting. Spiralling melodic leads and sinister atmospheric touches complement the lurching gait and mid-paced groove on the impressive album closer, “The Chaining of the Iniquitous”.  Elsewhere, it’s typical Nile farebut rarely hitting the esteemed heights of their highly regarded discography.

Nileare rightfully lauded as modern day legends in the American death metal landscape, but the bottom line is; At the Gate of Sethu doesn’t stack up to the band’s best work.  On the flipside they do sound as pissed off as ever and play with the kind of energy, skill and precision one would expect from such a professional unit; while Karl Sanders’ unfailing enthusiasm for Egyptian culture and history is admirable.

Devotees will likely enjoy this album on some level,but it might have many pondering where Nile will go next and if they have enough creative juices left to deliver another album of the calibre of Black Seeds of Vengeance or Annihilation of the Wicked.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Luke Saunders
October 2nd, 2012

Comments

  1. Commented by: gabaghoul

    ha I was wondering when someone would get around to this.

    despite the strange production, I like this one better than Those Whom the Gods Detest (except for Utterances of the Crawling Dead, one of Nile’s best songs ever).


  2. Commented by: E. Thomas

    gotta agree with luke’s opinion on the production here. it makes me angry. Prometheus levels of angry


  3. Commented by: Guilliame

    The sound is shocking. That whole murky dark wall of guitars is gone and replaced with a dry standard Tech Death (boring) production.

    And Kollias is the last guy that needs the silly triggered clickity clak drum production.

    Shame because some of the songs are really vicious.
    The album feels like they were a little distracted on this one.


  4. Commented by: Staylow

    I’ve never much cared for Nile, but I dig this, for the most part. Love the production too – I don’t understand the hate.


  5. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    what the fuck were they thinking? the production used to sound like a stone being draggeed away from a tomb, now it sounds like cracked parchment being opened and then disintegrating.


  6. Commented by: RichF

    Another vote for great production here. Pretty great album too.


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