REVIEW: NILE – “Vile Nilotic Rites”
I’ll admit up front that I am in general not a huge fan of the technical death metal sub genre. Yes it is fast, and highly complex, all of which I appreciate. Inevitably I get bored with it after about three songs. There is, however, a monumental exception to this and that is for the band Nile. Ever since I bought ‘Annihilation of the Wicked’ back in ‘05 I’ve loved the band and the unique, and more intelligent take on the genre that Karl Sanders has brought to it. Their albums have nearly as much atmosphere and places to breathe as they do do pummeling moments. And they introduced me to H.P. Lovecraft, a major influence on their lyrics, who has become one of my favorite authors, so I owe the band a rather large debt. This brings us to the upcoming release of Egyptian-based brutality ‘Vile Nilotic Rites’ which drops next month, and it’s one that fan or pharaoh should want to get their hands on.
The album kicks off with “Long Shadows of Dread,” beginning quietly at first, before bludgeoning the listener with a full on death metal assault. The band wanted this to be the first thing anyone heard from this album, so put it first, and released it as the first single. Clearly they wanted something that will grab your attention, and then spend the next four minutes throttling your ear drums. This song has everything you probably love about Nile; incredibly heavy brutality, highly complex music, quieter ambient passages for texture, and lyrical themes that only Karl seems to want to bring.
The song also kicks off a theme that you find throughout the album, the end of civilization, and mankind’s impending doom. Both for those in ancient times, when they were usurped, to our own modern world, which often seems hellbent on its own destruction. The idea is perhaps best summed up by author G.K. Chesterton; “Many clever men like you have trusted to civilization. Many clever Babylonians, many clever Egyptians, many clever men at the end of Rome. Can you tell me, in a world that is flagrant with the failures of civilization, what there is particularly immortal about yours?”
Jumping ahead a couple songs we come to the title track, which seems to be telling the story of either an ancient priest, or king who abandoned whatever orthodox belief was at the time, and indulged instead in vile, blasphemous rites, which apparently included snakes, other animals, and some form of sexual perversions. Without a lyrics sheet, or the typical lengthy explanation included on their physical releases, it is difficult to get it all clearly. The closing line of ‘what one worships one becomes’ remains however an astute and accurate description of the goal of religion in general.
This is immediately followed by “Seven Horns of War,” the longest song on the album at nearly 9 minutes. It begins with the horns mentioned in the song title, and adds additional orchestration, and brief female choir. My two oldest children, when this song came on over the stereo, always called it “the Godzilla song” as the opening horns and themes reminded them of the main theme from the original Gojira films, the booming menace the horns bring are not dissimilar, and have a similar effect of knowing that your doom is coming for you. The frenzy of death metal then kicks in, and we are taken on a lengthy, but never boring, journey of destruction. The drumming of George Kollias is especially thunderous here, and he continues to amaze as one of the best drummers in the genre. A song of this length gives the whole band time to shine and come together. The entire album was written as a group and meant to be cohesive and on point. This song is a perfect example of that. Longer songs can at times feel “fluffed” out; that is never true here, even with the quiet middle section, the guitar work of Karl and Brian Kingsland is impressive, and works together, while the bass of Brad Parris sits on the bottom of everything, holding it together. And unlike a lot of metal albums, you can actually hear what he’s doing.
Although one could easily go track by track through the album, I find such reviews laborious. All the songs throughout are classic Nile. You know what you’re getting into when you get one of their albums, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. The last couple albums have all had some gems on them, but also some things that didn’t do much for me. This is not the case this time around. The band first approach, and razor focus have given us what we expect, only in a fuller and more complete way, and I think their strongest release in recent memory. And it gets even better when listened to with a good set of headphones.
The album concludes with “We Are Cursed.” It works as an ideal album closer, combining the moody atmosphere with their signature approach to heaviness, and as throughout the combined death vocals of Karl, Brian, and Brad work perfectly together. It builds as it goes, and when it finishes it leaves me in a rather satisfied state of mind.
‘Vile Nilotic Rites’ is an album that I believe Nile fans have been waiting for in recent years – a deep, multilayered example of technical death metal with plenty for us to sink our teeth into. The experience will of course improve even more with the addition of lyrics, and hopefully the explanatory notes provided by Karl Sanders. Fans of the band I know are already planning on getting this album and someone looking into the band for the first time will have chosen an excellent point of entry. Highly recommended.