After the booming early nineties, in which the American Death Metal scene established its name, NILE was one of the bands that filled the void that followed. Through 3 climaxes of brutality, technical ability and innovative elements, the name of the band rose in the Death Metal ranks, to a point where very few Death Metal bands can match the popularity of the band. After a solid period of touring, the band commenced work on the highly anticipated sequel to the 2002 monster “In Their Darkened Shrines”. Not without any change though, as the band dealt with line-up changes both before and after the recording of the new album, “Annihilation Of The Wicked”.
Obviously these changes have their effect on the outcome of the recording, but one of these consequences is not even all that obvious. With the then still upcoming departure of bass player and lead vocalist Jon Vesano (who in the mean time has been replaced by the talented Joe Payne), Dallas Toler-Wade has taken over a much larger role on vocals, in addition to the vocals of only remaining founding member Karl Sanders and Jon Vesano. As I said, this change is not that obvious, as the dynamic use of grunts is still one of the priorities and highlights of the NILE sound. A bigger change was the departure of Tony Laureano, who has been replaced by Greek drummer George Kollias. But don’t worry, as could be expected the new drummer easily fills the shoes of his predecessor. Maybe the drum work is not as subtle and layered as the ingeniously structured drums on the previous album, but speed and creativity are both at a nearly unequalled level (take for instance the drums during the solo of “Cast Down The Heretic”, breathtaking!).
Essentially, the drum work is just as it should be, as this NILE album is just not like “In Their Darkened Shrines”… Not to worry, “Annihilation Of The Wicked” is in every aspect a NILE record, but it sounds different, more direct. After the band had opted for an increase in the complexity of the compositions, “Annihilation Of The Wicked” is first and foremost a brutal record and has more resemblance to the band’s debut album “Amongst The Catacombs Of Nephren-Ka” rather than the 2 albums that followed. Still, progression of technical level of the music hasn’t stopped, it’s just that the mix of the album is more directed at a brutal sound, but with the complex song structures still clearly audible (guitar freaks, listen to for instance “The Burning Pits Of The Duat” and mind your jaw). Responsible for the gargantuan sound is Neil Kernon and needless to say he lives up to the name he’s established with his previous productions. Due to this mix, the element of groove has taken a bigger portion of the sound than ever before, like can be heard in the unbelievable track “Lashed To The Slave Stick”. Again, typically NILE, which may sound a little different at first but shows the continuous progression of the band. Without a doubt, this is all you’d want to hear in a new NILE record, brutality, groove, creativity, dynamics, complexity…. Well, all? While the Egyptian samples have had a predominant role on each of the NILE albums, they are severely reduced on “Annihilation Of The Wicked”. There was already a decreased use on the previous album, but on the new record the use of these samples is close to zero. Those are limited to the acoustic intro “Dusk Falls Upon The Temple Of The Serpent On The Mount Of Sunrise” and the first tones of “User-Maat-Re” and sound effects such as horns and gongs that come together as “Spawn Of Uamenti” and return in the fantastic title track of the album. I guess the band saw it was time to step away from this part of the sound and in my opinion they are right to do so, as at some point the effect would have undoubtedly wore off. Besides, no matter if there are Egyptian albums or not, NILE is a brutal Death Metal band and “Annihilation Of The Wicked” is one of the best in that genre. Of course mastermind Karl Sanders already had the full opportunity to experiment with the ambient sounds on his solo effort.
I gave “In Their Darkened Shrines” a 10/10, so how on earth is it possible to rate this album properly? Well, this disc is everything you want from a NILE disc, the band has moved on but have kept their own face. For me, there is no doubt who are kings of Death Metal at this point, the intensity of NILE is simply unmatched. Not only do they deliver on every record they release, but they continue to grow as a band and “Annihilation Of The Wicked” is as clear a statement as possible. I also urge you to witness the sheer brutality of this band in a live setting, where they seemingly effortlessly pull it off as well. Prepare to be AnNILEhilated!! (Online July 6, 2005)