Before "Amongst The Catacombs Of Nephrem-Ka", "Black Seeds Of Vengeance" and "In Their Darkened Shrines", even before the "Ramses Bringer Of War" EP, there was the infamous 1995 NILE debut demo: "Festivals Of Atonement".
I stumbled across this record in my local Metal-shop when I was browsing around the other day, immediately thinking: "wait minute, this is out of print; limited release…" While this particular Metal shop isn't exactly the most popular around, it's hard to imagine this demo just sat there for all these years untouched. Surely I can't be the only NILE-fan in all of Gent (yes, the famous city of Gent :p ). Either a) that's exactly what happened anyway, b) he had multiple copies in stock, c) ergo, it's not really that rare.
I'm opting for answer c) since it was available on the official site for a while anyhow. So in retrospect, this may not be THE most rare NILE release ever ("Ramses Bringer of War" however…) but if do manage to find yourself a copy, by all means get it, because the music is well worth it.
In fact, the music is outstanding. I've found myself spinning "Festivals Of Atonement" for nearly two weeks non-stop now, even pushing "Amongst The Catacombs Of Nephrem-Ka" away. It's so energetic and raw but at the same time so undisputedly NILE, I just can't stop listening to it. (oh btw, I forgot to mention: every "Festivals Of Atonement" song is also featured on the "In The Beginning" compilation, so don't get all depressed yet :p )
Onto the music itself. The intro will already make you grin in anticipation. You know NILE's coming up, you know there's an Egyptian onslaught ready to break loose at any moment, …and the guitars haven't even begun to roar yet. "Divine Intent" is classic, simply put. It's a non stop, Death Metal frenzy assault on year ears, with a great solo in the middle. The riffs pulverize and dominate and you're set for more to come.
"The Black Hand Of Set" keeps the pace of "Divine Intent", but ultimately serves just as a nice transition into the third song "Wrought", which is probably the finest on this demo, and perhaps one of NILE's best, on par with monsters like "Masturbating The War God" or "The Blessed Dead". It starts off with a classically flavoured guitar, driving straight into a mean riff, which returns at the end of the song. In between, "Wrought" ranges from mid-tempo to hyper speed, from flutes and sitar to NILE's trademark frantic soloing.
"Immortality Through Art" is the intro guitar to "Godless" (at least, that's my guess), which brings (inhale) "Libation Unto The Shades Who Lurk In The Shadows Of The Temple Of Anhur" of the "Black Seeds…" album to mind. "Godless" is yet another smashing song in the vein of "Divine Intent" and finally we get the obligatory Doom-track as a last treat ("Extinct").
Overall, this record isn't nearly as fast as other NILE-releases, but "Festivals Of Atonement" still manages to pack quite a punch, backed up by a great production. On a minor note, the vocals aren't as heavy yet (although there are a few hints to future growling on "The Black Hand Of Set"), because it's just Karl doing the grunting, but he still does a fine job anyway.
"Festivals Of Atonement" will crush you again and again,… but the real brutality was yet to come… (Online October 22, 2003)
Guest reviewer Ben Meuleman