And the Pharaohs are back! While certainly not a bad record, there was no question that 2007’s “Ithyphallic” was a dip in form for South Carolinians NILE. The production seemed muddy, the songs just didn’t have the bite as previous efforts had, and the flow of the album was a bit stagnant. But with as stellar a record as they had had up until that point, that was probably to be expected. Well, no need to worry about this trend continuing, as “Those Whom The Gods Detest” is a sumptuous return to form that again places the band in its rightful place among Death Metal’s elite.
To some extent it is quite astonishing what NILE have achieved: an American band playing highly technical Death Metal but with overt Middle Eastern musical and lyrical themes that are as prevalent as the gore and evil obsessions are with so many of their contemporaries. A band with similar tendencies toward occult or mythological themes that comes to mind is ABSU, yet their actual music doesn’t display any signatures of this influence nor are they anywhere near the stature of NILE. This constant theme of NILE’s work I know grates on some people, but I fucking love it! On TWTGD these same topics pepper the musical landscape, but are used to buttress their own brand of viciously technical Death. The Middle Eastern moments are plenty, but as he always does, Karl Sanders places them thriftily amongst the onslaught of fury, never letting them prevail beyond creating a unique tenor to the album. At least they are musical, unlike the seemingly ubiquitous use of movie samples in so many fashionable releases over the last 10 years or so. On the opening track “Kafir!”, Sanders and co. signal something of a change that remains constant throughout the album: slower passages and songs. Now, this is still a record of stunning speed at times, customary to what we expect from NILE. But there is no mistaking that on these tracks the band has reined in the speed and sought a more monolithic fortification of sheer brute force, which then makes the rapid fire moments all the more gripping. Neil Kernon’s production work is immaculate, as is Eric Rutan’s on the drumming. Brilliant stuff.
Sanders, because of his function as main songwriter and lyricist tends to garner the most attention when NILE is discussed, but Dallas Toler-Wade and George Kollias should be just as revered for their amazing prowess on the album also. Toler-Wade is an exceptional guitarist in his own right, able to crush and pick rhythms at blinding speed as well as anyone. That he also plays bass on the album should be duly noted. His vocals though are not given enough credit as he takes on the bulk of the vocals with his ruthless delivery and often odd phrasings. If you’ve seen NILE live then you know he does this with what appears to be little effort he is that good. Another significant change on the album is that the vocals are much clearer than ever before and in fact are discernable where that was almost never the case previously with the band. Kollias is almost another beast all by himself. He is a fierce drummer with unquestionable gifts (although I hate that word as it makes it seem as though musicians didn’t practice hard and work endlessly to craft the talent) and a percussionist who knows precisely when to take a measured approach and when to blast his way from Duat. I recall when on the “In Their Darkened Shrines” tour some of us where curious as to who would replace the mind-blowing Tony Laureno? When they rolled around with Kollias all was right with the world; Kollias was in the same league with Laureno and NILE had done a brilliant job of replacing him. All put together, the three of them have again made a record of monumental breadth and jugular slashing violence. The crazy, inimitable scales that rip through the band’s work are there in spades, saddled next to the gargantuan riffs Toler-Wade and Sanders are so well known for. Low tuned guitars, complex rhythms and stifling vocals adorn every track and make them each their own also. On the title track we are served with all the lovely ingredients NILE uses to satiate our many musical thirsts: the captivating acoustical waft of Egypt, the wrathful breakneck guitars and manic cymbal crashing, and then the slow, devastating burn of those humongous riffs that asphyxiate with power. That the track shifts between these effortlessly is a testament to the song writing and proficiency of all the musicians involved. On “4th Arra Of Dagon” is when the restrained pacing of the album really shows, it being what may be described as a Funeral Death track. But the vigour is there. The album is replete with such layers and once again proves why NILE are as revered in the Metal world as just about any band right now.
(Online December 25, 2009)