Saturday, July 7, 2012

Nile - At the Gate of Sethu

Ok, here’s another album to add on the “2012 gems” list. Nile, one of my very, very favorite bands released their seventh full-length album just a little while ago. For me, Nile’s quality has been fairly consistent, but not TOTALLY consistent. I know people are going to shoot me for saying this, but Annihilation of the Wicked and In their Darkened Shrines are fantastic records, but probably Nile’s worst. Black Seeds of Vengeance and Those Whom the Gods Detest remain my two favorites, but I don’t know, At the Gate of Sethu is pretty damn amazing. But an album has to be in my collection for at least seven months and I have to know it forwards and backwards before I will consider it to be a “favorite”. But, considering that the lowest score I’ve ever given a Nile album is 14/20, their dependability is pretty fucking strong. If you didn’t notice, Nile decided to take an extra year to release this album (probably because of the constant touring they did, I saw them three times in two years!). But the extra year was worth it, because Nile is back with, that’s right, another 20/20 album.

In At the Gates of Sethu, Nile brings back the sounds from early works like Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka and the Festivals of Atonement [EP]. But of course, Nile still keeps many of the elements that they introduced in Ithyphallic and Those Whom the Gods Detest. But being the fan of their earlier works that I am, I can hear a lot of the underground brutal death elements that they used when they WERE an underground brutal death band (as impossible as it sounds, Nile was, in fact, one of “them”). There is actually a lot less of Dallas’ mid-ranged growls and much more of Karl’s DEEP spine-chilling growls.

I know that there are a lot of bands that I absolutely love and consider “one of my favorite bands”. But I plan to clarify that in the future, as well as make it a point that Nile is a band that will never leave that list and holds an amount of my respect that only six other bands have built up the capability of holding. But that aside, the point of an album review is to dissect the album and say WHY this and WHY that instead of just saying this and that.

I’m pretty sure that none of these bands have ever influenced Nile’s music, but there are a lot of traits that this album carries that remind me of other groups. This is a good thing because it helps me make connections and further understand Nile’s extremely complex sound. A lot of the really fast parts that have bombarding blast beats and super deep guitars remind me of groups like Cease of Breeding and Dying Fetus. The reason why is because of the really crunchy sound that the distorted guitars and the overdriven blast beats create. In brutal death metal especially, this is the type of thing that I can tend to have a soft spot for. Another thing that I love to make connections with (and something that is actually kind of a newish element) are the breakdowns in almost every track. Yes, I know that Nile has always used breakdowns like in the title track for Black Seeds of Vengeance and the legendary Kafir! breakdown, but the breakdowns in this album seem to have a little more groove to them than brutality. Yes, they still have brutality, but they have a Dying Fetus-style groove to them that actually changes the vibe of the moment.

Something that comes with the singing in the songs is melodic guitar riffs. No, I’m not talking about those fucking awesome Egyptian acoustic guitar parts, I’m talking about really dark Hypocrisy-style melodic stuff. Although Hypocrisy most likely isn’t the BEST description for what I’m talking about, you can kind of hear some Hypocrisy in their music. I guess the Egyptian/middle eastern influence that Nile has always had is what’s solely responsible for the extremely unique sound that the melodic sections carry.

The biggest new element that the band implements in this album was introduced in a couple tracks on Ithyphallic. In Those Whom the Gods Detest, this element was used in the title track and in a few others. I’m talking about singing. And no, I’m not talking about that ambient east-african style singing that you hear at the beginning of the songs (especially on their 2009 record). I’m talking about actual singing. When you listen to the chorus of Those Whom the Gods Detest, there’s singing that’s following Dallas’ demonic growls. Well, this element is used in At the Gate of Sethu as well. I’m not going to say which tracks because the song names are too long and I don’t want to burn up typing energy (lazy me).

An element that Nile has brought back from the earlier days is the shortish Egyptian-themed instrumental tracks. Yes, I know that several songs on Ithyphallic has intros like this that lasted for several minutes, but even those sounded different than the ones used on Black Seeds of Vengeance and Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka. The more recent interludes sound more ambient and powerful while the older ones just sound fucking creepy and dark. This is something that, for me, has had a huge effect on the overall sound of this record when you listen to it straight through in one sitting.

Anything else that I haven’t already mentioned is indescribable. Nile’s music is so complex and hard to understand that there’s still a lot about them that I have yet to fully understand. Anything from influence, method of composition, and certain techniques are weaved in so tightly with a billion other elements that it’s nearly impossible to understand it all. This is partly why everyone loves Nile’s music so much. It shines with common brutal death and death metal elements that anyone can understand, but it also is filled to the brim with shit that even musicians from the best metal bands of all-time have given countless credit to. That in itself shows Nile’s true power.

Being the best brutal death band to walk the face of the earth, Nile continues to alter their sound with more progressive elements and technicality. I’m fully aware that there are a few people that have considered Nile to be tech death, which is completely understandable due to Karl Sander’s godlike guitar work and George’s godlike drumming (literally godlike). The score of this album is unquestionably perfect. I wouldn’t even THINK of giving it anything less. At the Gate of Sethu has exceeded my expectations and has proven that Nile has still got what it takes to be one of the most brutal death metal bands on the planet. Who would I recommend this album to? YOU!