Those Whom the Gods Detest

The staying power of Nile, not to mention its rightful place among death metal royalty, has been firmly established for years now. They have never released a bad album – not even close – and in many ways redefined the brutal/traditional end of technical death metal (compared to, for example, a band like Necrophagist). Then again, I’m not sure “traditional” is even an appropriate description – you may instead want to insert “progressive.” We’ll keep “brutal” in there though. The point is that you can always count on Karl Sanders and Dallas Toler-Wade to continually up the death metal ante, and that includes Ithyaphallic, an album that I enjoyed only slightly less than Annihilation of the Wicked (the ultimate DM atom-smasher) and In Their Darkened Shrines, though it was on par with both of those releases from a creative standpoint. The short of it about Those Whom the Gods Detest is that the disc is not a game-raising album, though it is another grand Nile effort.

The important thing to understand about this assessment of Those Whom the God Detest is that it is not a question of whether it is a good or bad death metal album; it is a great death metal album any way you slice it. It is a matter of degree of greatness, an argument similar to one I made in a recent review of the new LP by The Chasm. Nile has raised the bar so high for death metal that calling a release a disappointment doesn’t really make a whole hell of a lot of sense. An examination of the new album in the context of the Nile catalogue as a whole reveals that is not as good as its three aforementioned predecessors, but better overall than either Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka and Black Seeds of Vengeance, at least from the standpoint of songwriting dynamics (yes, I love those first two albums too, but let’s try to be objective for fuck’s sake).

What “not as good as” really means though is that Nile has not topped themselves and for the first time – maybe the second, depending on your view of Ithyphallic – the band sounds more predictable and less technically dizzying. There was a time when a new Nile album was overwhelmingly shocking in its intensity and jaw-dropping in its technicality, but the genre has begun catching up with the South Carolina quartet the last few years and making those kinds of albums has become a lot harder.

Now that we’ve split hairs and qualified to a nauseating extent, the fact of the matter is that if you loved Nile before, there isn’t a damn thing about Those Whom the Gods Detest that will change your mind. Perhaps more telling is that most would still dub it one of the best death metal albums of 2009. The only difference from past years is that it will not be considered the best. The arrangements continue to be defined by swirling vortexes of solos and riffs, sometimes spiraling away from each other and sometimes meeting in the middle to synergistically create a whole new form of energy. Non-traditional (for metal) Middle Eastern instrumentation continues to be utilized and sounds great (check out “Yezd Desert Ghul Ritual in the Abandoned Towers of Silence”), while Toler-Wade’s vocals are the most intelligible of any Nile album to date, making the affair that much more accessible, relatively speaking of course. Other new twists include Islamic prayer (presumably) chants (e.g. “Fafir I”) and something approaching an actual sung chorus on the title track that initially takes one aback and then gradually grows into the album’s most memorable cut. In fact, I find the most recent spins of the disc to be far more enjoyable than the first few, so it does seem to be a grower.

What it all boils down to is that the vast majority of folks will find Those Whom the Gods Detest to be a first rate death metal album. It is only the death metal diehards (writers and fans alike) that will find any fault at all with the new effort. Perhaps what best sums up my view of the new album is that it will not be a Top 10 year-end list selection for me, but a Top 20, maybe 25, is a distinct possibility.

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Written by Scott Alisoglu
November 3rd, 2009


  1. Commented by: Biff Tannan

    I agree that Nile has never made a bad album….they have become very sterile and boring to my ears. I know what to expect, and it has no staying power, in my opinion. I have grown tired of br00tal death metal, and its bland atmosphere, Nile included. I think there is a GREAT resurgence of death metal going on right now in the underground that blows Nile outta the water…I encourage people that are sick of the sterile mainstream death metal bands (Nile,Arsis,Suffocation,Cannibal Corpse…etc) to seek out the following bands:

    Ignivomous (Australia) – sick DEATH metal. Not technical wankery like most modern stuff. Think Incantation but with more speedy section.

    Necros Christos (Germany) – Awesome death metal in the vein of Grave/Dismember, but with a very occult black metal atmosphere. Their guitar tone brings back the glory days of the early swedish death scene.

    Embrace of Thorns (Greece) – Fast, chaotic death metal with great atmosphere and loads of riffs.

  2. Commented by: gabaghoul

    Good review, we’re of the same mind on this one.

    It sounds fucking monstrous, the technical skills are still ridiculously dizzying and it’s got that classic epic Nile presentation – but it’s not gelling for me like In the Darkened Shrines, which I still think is their best album (and one of my favorite metal albums ever).

    It’s incredibly well-researched – read the liner notes – but I don’t know if that level of care went into each of the songs. Some of them are really hard to get a handle on, they just seem like blizzards of guitar but not actual riffs or melodies – compare Hittite Dung Incantation to Utterances of the Crawling Dead. Thought the title track was a complete mess, though I do like the chanted chorus. But as an epic, it’s no Unas Slayer of the Gods, far from it. Even a slowed-down track like 4th Arra of Dagon is not as mesmerizing as Eat of the Dead on the last album.

    Still it is Nile, and Nile is amazing. Just not the career-crowning release that some people have been claiming it is.

    (Sorry, that became a mini-review)

  3. Commented by: Jobby

    Actually this is the Nile album that (for me, at least) *is* up their with ‘In Their Darkened Shrines’.

    While I liked Annihilation and Ithyphallic and the rest, they didn’t have the memorable song-writing and hooks? catchiness? memorability (not the right words for it, but … you get what I mean).

    This is the first Nile album in quite a while that has me really excited. I catch myself humming ‘there is no god’ quite often and the album has yet to make it out of the car, while Annihilation and Ithyphallic were (apart from a few key tracks) pretty forgettable.

  4. Commented by: emperorjvl

    Ithyphallic got me interested in Nile, but this one got me hooked. The 1st and 6th tracks are simply amazing.

  5. Commented by: Tim

    I agree with the reviewer, sort of… I think this is better than Ithyphalic (by a mile, the production alone is enough to make it far better), and it might even be better than Annihilation of the Wicked. This compares favorably to In Their Darkened Shrines, an album I hold among the five or ten best death metal albums ever made. The more I listen to this, the more I like it.

  6. Commented by: faust666

    “fafir” ???
    Not a good review. “The short of it about Those Whom the Gods Detest is that the disc is not a game-raising album, though it is another grand Nile effort.”
    I disagree totally. Nile has not just raised the game with this album but changed the fuckin game too.

    Death Metal AOTY 2009. No. Fucking.Contest.

  7. Commented by: TRaikov

    I saw Nile live,and i must say they really kill every other death metal band like grave or belphegor or whatever,ive heard alot and i mean alot of death metal bands,and one thing is for sure THEY FUCKING DISERVE IT.Their new album is a smashing masterpiece and it will bring them even more success than the previous albums.

  8. Commented by: Fred Laner

    I agree with some of the other comments here. TWTGD was not only the best Death Metal album 2009, but Metal album of that year, period, and one of the best Metal albums of this century. It’s as though the original reviewer didn’t let the album sink in enough.

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