By Raymond Westland
With the release of Amongst The Catacombs Of Nephren-Ka back in 1998 Nile gave the stagnant death metal scene some much needed injection of fresh ideas and relevance. Nowadays the album is seen as modern classic. With each subsequent release Karl Sanders and Co managed to get a bigger piece of the action. Especially Black Seeds Of Vengeance(2000), Annihilation Of The Wicked(2005) and Those Whom The Gods Detest (2009) are essential death metal albums in my book. Let’s see whether Nile has some surprises left on their latest album, entitled At The Gates Of Sethu.
Those Whom The Gods Detest is a true masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, so coming up with a worthy successor is a daunting task to say the least. Truth be told, At the Gates Of Sethu isn’t the end-all be-all Nile album, but it’s certainly packs a mighty punch in its own right. This is Nile and not some cheap ass Cannibal Corpse or Morbid Angel worshipper/copycat band.
At The Gates Of Sethu is first and foremost a very traditional Nile album. Brutal technical death metal is still at the heart of it all, the three-pronged vocal attack has lost nothing of its venom and the religion and history from Ancient Egypt still form the main source of inspiration for Karl Sanders. What sets Nile apart from their peers is their collective attention for small details, such as ritualistic chants and the use of indigenous instruments and percussion. This is used to great effect in tracks like, “Enduring The Eternal Molestation Of Flame”, “The Fiends Who Come To Steal The Magic Of The Deceased” and “Tribunal Of The Dead”. Strategically-placed interludes like “Slaves Of Xul” and “Ethno-Musicological Cannibalisms” enhance the overall atmosphere and they give the listener some time to reflect.
Another crucial point is that Sanders and Co fully appreciate the value of good dynamics and diversity. Fast-paced songs go hand-in-hand with more doom metal orientated tracks, like “When My Wrath Is Done” and the aforementioned “Tribunal Of The Dead”. This gives At The Gates Of Sethu exactly its edge. Other nice features are the often melodic guitar leads by Karl Sanders and Dallas Toller-Wade and the higher-pitched growls by newcomer Todd Ellis. George Kollias still proves he’s one of the finest drummers within the extreme metal realm.
Death metal isn’t a genre known for pointy songs or catchy hooks, but what I sorely miss on this album are some real stand-out songs in the vein of “Kafir”, “Black Seeds Of Vengeance” or “Ramses, Bringer Of War”. On the plus side Nile doesn’t dabble with techno and they don’t sing about how extreme they are like Trey and Co did on their latest abomination.
So where does At The Gates Of Sethu fit in the greater Nile pantheon? I’d say this album is up to par with In Their Darkened Shrines and Ithyphallic. Karl Sanders and Co may not have released their finest work to date, but there’s still plenty to enjoy and it further cements the band’s unique position within the overall death metal scene. I just keep on wondering how much further they can push their current style…
At The Gates Of Sethu will be released in Europe on June 29th and in North America on July 3rd