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There are some of my metalhead friends who complain that one of the problems in the metal world today is that there are too many gimmick bands out there - bands who focus more on branding themselves as something unique than they focus on producing music that's actually listenable. Nile is a band that's guilty of this to at least some degree. "Ithyphallic metal?" Really? Any band that comes up with a new genre name for their "unique" style of music is almost certainly a troupe of garish hacks. I grant you that viking metal is a thing, but pirate metal? Neo-pagan metal? Post-industrial Norwegian beardcore? Color me skeptical.
Despite how I rag on such gimmicky branding, I've got to admit that it was precisely that which got me to purchase this album. The album's title and cover are cool, the band name is simple and evocative, and I had heard some good things about this album. It's always worth trying something new, right? Well, maybe not entirely new. Iron Maiden's Powerslave had some Egyptian-sounding chords in it, and Egypt from Symphony X's album V: The New Mythology Suite is about, well, Egypt. I wasn't completely unprepared.
Except I actually was completely unprepared. I expected the record to open with at least a brief, traditional Egypt-sounding intro, but instead Smashing the Antiu opens with a guttural roar, blast beats, and tremolo lines. In fact, it reminded me more of Suffocation's Pierced from Within than anything else. There are some vaguely Eygpt-themed lines in the first two songs, but the opening track and Barra Edinazzu are mostly blast beats, frantic tremolo riffing, and indecipherable growling. The most surprising thing to me was that Nile decided to not simply shove their beloved Egyptian themes down our ears from the opening lines. Instead, they gave the listener the pounding riffs and aggression that anyone seeking this style of metal would naturally desire. Even better, they present some unusual song structure, notably in the breakdown/bridge of the second track. It can be rare to find an attention-grabbing moment in music this aggressive, and Nile delivered.
None of this is to say that the album is free of overt Egyptian influences. Rather than try to fuse death metal with the sounds of the middle east, throughout the album, Nile opted instead to present a few tracks which were nothing other than non-metal, but fitting, pieces of traditional-style music. Kudurru Maqlu and Die Rache Krieg Lied Der Assyriche are included only for setting the atmosphere, and are honestly well-chosen and appropriate additions to the record. The latter of the two tracks is a standout from the album, being one of the most easily memorable moments from it.
Elsewhere, Nile gives a few nods to other styles of music. Ramses Bringer of War is directly inspired by the often-borrowed Mars, the Bringer of Wars from The Planets by Gustav Holst. As one of the album's better songs, it stands out as the most bizarre usage of Holst's work that I've heard to date. There are passages in a few songs, such as The Howling of the Jinn, that include frantic spiritual chanting. In a few spots, there may even be some influences from black metal, where the low end of the sound drops away completely, and the track is reduced to higher pitched tremolo picking and blast beats, notably in Opening of the Mouth.
Something of a hodgepodge, Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka is nothing if not thoroughly enjoyable. In a few ways, it is the kind of album I always wished the Suffocation would write; Suffocation is no doubt Nile's closest-sounding analog I know of, and many songs on this record have better hooks than I've heard from the legends of the genre. It's not an all-time great record, but it's one that I'm thrilled to own and it will undoubtedly get many hours of playing time in the future. I only wish I had found it sooner.
If you’re going to get anything of value out of this album, the first thing you have to do it listen to the music, and that means filtering through the guitar tone and the blasting and trying to hear what’s being played. Headphones may help. Regardless, no more talk about how Nile is just random technical noise or chugging. Please, you’re embarrassing me.
It might be best to tune through the more blatantly Egyptian-sounding parts too, since they’re not the most important parts. Some of them are alright, some are a bit cheesy, but to tell the truth… not many people comment on this but the fact is… most of them seem to be sampled from The Exorcist II. Surely I’m not the only person who’s seen that movie more than once?
But what makes this a good album, as I alluded to above, is the music - the death metal music. Often compared to Suffocation or Morbid Angel, what it really reminds me is, oddly enough, Emperor, particularly around Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk, another album that tends to be worshiped or derided for ridiculous reasons. Aside from the atmospherics, the way they trade off between lengthy and amorphous (but melodic) tremolo attacks and more normal riffing somewhat more native to their styles seems similar to me.
Emperor were getting a little or a lot too pompous for their own good, but Nile have barbarity in place of pretension.
The songs are all short and do favor the “surprise!” transitions of newer technical death metal, but do have some sense of individual identity. Those Egyptian interludes help in that respect, but more importantly, the songs have beginnings, middles, and endings, even if they are abrupt.
I’d recommend this except that you bought it a week after getting into death metal anyway. Still, quit acting like you outgrew it when you got into more obscure bands, because whatever Eastern European tech death demo-level band you’re into these days, it’s probably not as good as this.
This is the album which forced me to grudgingly reevaluate my position on Nile from being an absolutely awful band to being a pretty good band who managed to inject two completely awful albums into their mid-era before returning to decent music. This, their first album, is surprisingly good! The songs are very good (if not extraordinarily memorable), the technicality isn't as absurdly overblown as later in the band's catalog, and overall it operates with much more taste, class, and quality than, say, 'In Their Darkened Shrines'. It's actually a Nile album that I can wholeheartedly recommend, something I thought I'd never find.
The most important part of this is that it's not a technical exercise. 'Black Seeds Of Vengeance' and 'In Their Darkened Shrines' oftentimes seem to be nothing but long series of vaguely Egyptian-sounding guitar theatrics grinding against overly fill-laden drumming and dull growls. Now I can't deny that the growling is still rather dull, but the lyrics aren't as excruciatingly verbose so they're less of a problem. The drumming is INFINITELY less obtrusive than it is on later releases, not fighting with the guitars for attention. The riffing is a great deal more coherent, and while it still has a high level of technicality, it all seems rather more composed instead of the aimless scale runs of 'In Their Darkened Shrines'. They occasionally have a shadow of groove or dynamics to them instead of the one-idea patterns that dominate later albums.
Much is made of Nile's ostensible atmosphere, and while I still can't claim they've ever achieved such a thing to an impressive degree, this album is about as close as they ever got. The ambient sections are still dripping with cheese, but for some reason they seem more youthfully enthusiastic instead of purely pretentious and begging for attention. The death metal sections themselves aren't greatly atmospheric, but they're probably all the better for it, since Colonel Sanders doesn't feel the need to insert artificially 'Egyptian' riffs everywhere possible to assure you that the theme is being appropriately upheld. Production is clear and sharp, not muddy and overly bassy like the following two albums.
I'm honestly not sure how Nile managed to make a very good album here but cock it up completely on the next two before returning to quality. Maybe the success went to Sanders' head and it took a few years to recover. Either way, for those doubting the ability of Nile to compose interesting, exciting, and listenable music, I'd sincerely point you to this album as an example of true quality. You won't be disappointed by this release if you have even a little taste.
Nile is a brutal death metal band from Greensberg, South Carolina that formed in 1993. The single handily created their own style of brutal death metal music by combining extreme speed and nihilism with ancient styles of Middle Eastern music. Thus the band made what they like to call Ithyphallic Metal. Amongst The Catacombs Of Nephren-Ka is the bands first album on a major label (specifically Relapse Records), with only having a local produced album, Festivals of Atonement and an EP, Ramses Bringer Of War. Amongst The Catacombs Of Nephren-Ka is fueled with Egyptian themes, imagery, and Middle Eastern music, factors that separate Nile from other death metal bands. With unapologetic brutality, Nile also decided to experiment with chanting, percussion, gongs, and flutes, which are all found on this album, and are used to offset quiet and loud throughout. Although the album is a standout release and a certain must for any Nile fans or death metal fans in general, the album lacks the epic and progressive feel that the band later establishes with albums such as Annihilation Of The Wicked. Clocking at only 33 minutes and 7 seconds, by the time I got into the progressive power of the album, it was over.
The album kicks off immediately with Smashing The Antiu, with dense layers of riffs and vicious roaring from Karl Sanders, it almost sounds like the listener came in half way through the song. The track is very short, and is fueled with bellows and grunts and guitar solos along with some very atmospheric riffs. A good song to show the brutality of Nile, but it ends before one could even really get into the insanity of the song (which is why I look at this to have some influence of grindcore). Barra Edinazzu begins with the same fury as the previous track, the only difference are the more noticeable breakdowns snuck into the fury of heavy riffs and punishing blast beats with hellish vocals. A step up from the previous track, with a lot more groove and solo along with a flute played in the background and keyboard backdrop. The next track is the first to truly show some of Nile's unique musical styles, and it comes in the form of a filler track. Kudurru Maglu is an atmospheric track which gives the listener some distinct imagery. In my opinion, it gives me an image of an Egyptian sacrifice, partially due to the ominous chanting throughout the short, dark track.
Serpent Headed Mask begins with some furious riffage and heavy pounding on the drum. There is a lot of thrash influence found in this song, mixed in with the chugging riffs, blast beats, and dominating bellows. The song has a dark breakdown which goes into some haunting chanting followed by some more heavy riffs. The first brutal Nile song to feature atmospheric breakdown, and thankfully not the last as the song is over all to quickly (2 minutes and 18 seconds, just like the first track). The first real stand out track on the album is Ramses Bringer Of War. The song begins with ascending atmospheric are drums and keyboard orchestration in the backdrop. The song definitely sounds like a war, for after the amazing intro, some heavy riffs come in to give the battle sounds a more dynamic feel. It truly becomes a battle as the instruments from each band member struggle for air in the sudden fury that takes over the atmosphere. The song has some great chugging riffs and guitar solos, and manages to stand out while still sounding like most of the other tracks on the album.
Another atmospheric song is Stones Of Sorrow, which has some powerful, doom-esque opening riffs and more tribal drums along with keyboard backdrop and chimes. The song then bursts into some blast beats and brutal grunting. Probably the most atmospheric song on the album, the song has some powerful dynamics and breakdowns. Die Rache Krieg Lied Der Assyriche is another filler track, but it is a lot longer then a normal filler (clocking at 3 minutes and 13 seconds), the track has some haunting tribal chants, and a sense of unholy divinity in it's atmosphere. Karl Sanders comes in and provides some grunting chants in the back ground about half way through the song. A great track to listen to even though it is not a typical Nile song. The Howling Of The Jinn is another brutal onslaught of sheer speed and and fury. The song has some great guitar riffs and death metal vocals and a lot of haunting backdrop samples. More straightforward then most of the recent tracks before it, but still a solid track none the less.
Probably the most shortest death metal track I have ever heard, Pestilence And Iniquity is a little less then 2 minutes of sheer speed and mayhem. The track is also the most easily compared to grindcore due to it's short length and unforgiving assault of loud guitar riffs and heavy blast beats and drum rolls. Opening Of The Mouth opens up with some low bass backdrop and a flute playing a harmonic melody. The song then bursts into some heavy riffs and Karl Sanders' brutal screams. The song has a very haunting feel to it and some very dynamic riffage, guitar solos, and blast beats. The song even has a conga breakdown, though it is quickly interrupted by demented grunts and heavy riffs. One of the better songs on the album and overall great track. The last track,Beneath Eternal Oceans Of Sand both begins and ends with very soft, melodic guitar strums. The song then bursts into more typical Nile style riffs and growls and blast beats. The song has a much denser atmosphere then some of the previous tracks, and has some more melodic guitar work in it's breakdowns near the end, before finally descending into silence as the album ends. Overall it's a great album, but it has it's noticeable flaws that separate it from other Nile albums.
THIS WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN FOR SPUTNIKMUSIC.COM
Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka Review
Nile’s first full-length album is a very decent listen. Nile takes the rather tired looking death metal genre and injects life into it with this album (and subsequent ones).
Starting off with the blasting opener, ‘Smashing The Antiu,’ the album continues to ooze quality from each track. The effortless transition into the fast drumming and of ‘Barra Edinazzu’ makes for subliminal listening. The solos in ‘Barra Edinazzu’ were a very nice touch, which a killer ending followed by silence. ‘Kudurru Maqlu’ star is a transitional track with sounds of the Middle East, which then leads into the brutal opening of ‘Serpent Headed Mask,’ which has a nice little choir-like interlude thrown in. ‘Ramses Bringer of War’ has a nice slow opening, setting the score for some super-fast drumming, insane vocals and intensely thrown down riffs throughout.
The album progresses a bit, with many slow openings using all manner of instruments to set the atmosphere before the typical death metal style kicks in again. ‘Stones of Sorrow’ has some insane solos in it, ‘Die Rache Krieg Lied Der Assyriche’ tells a tale of slavery with chanting and thumping drums. The closing track, ‘Beneath Eternal Oceans of Sand,’ uses acoustic guitars to create a brooding setting before the crunching death metal sound is used again, finishing traditionally with slow drumming and final chord.
Whilst by no means perfect, Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka is well worth adding to your CD collection if you are a fan of death metal with some variety and have not already picked up some Nile.
In a genre were innovation is for the most part shunned, Nile have managed to both appeal to all the old-school purists all while looking forward and pushing Death Metal into interesting, exciting places. While this album only hints at the brilliance that Nile would achieve in their later full lengths, it's still a solid, and unique sounding piece of death metal.
The album starts off with Smashing the Antu, a slab of super fast, old school death metal. Fast riffing, super low vocals, and crazy drums. Well, it's good, with a few unexpected tempo changes, but it's nothing amazingly unique. Still, it doesn't take very long before we head into the territory that NIle are so well known for. Barra Edinazzu kicks along for the first minute and a half, before turning into a moody, atmospheric bit, complete with a ghoulish choir. Then 15 seconds later, it's back into the Metal. Still, a very unique song.
There's not really a lot of point going through each and every song. THis is Nile, you should know what to expect. Most of the Egyptian parts in this record are a little bit cheesier then in the later records, and the metal parts, while still brilliantly executed, can't really compare to the faster, heavier moments in Darkened Shrines or Annihilation.
So it's good.. but not as good as the later stuff. Why buy it then? Well, there's still a few fairly amazing songs here. Ramses Bringer of War has a corny but still super cool intro, really epic and military n stuff. The heavy bit comes in and it's just as good. THis song is as good as any Nile have done before or after this record. Just huge, epic and real heavy. Basically every song here is great, just not quite that great. Stones of Sorrow is slow and doomy, Die Rache.. is an awesome, moody instrumental, while Pestilence and Iniquity is super fast DM, packed into a compact 2 minutes.
So all in all, this is a solid album, full of great riffs and lots of interesting instrumentals. Not as good as their later stuff, but well worth checking out.
Nile are a unique band who flawlessly combine traditional Egyptian sounds and blasting death metal. There are only two other bands that come to mind that do something similar and these are Poland's Behemoth and Israel's Melechesh (whom are more black metal based). Nile are without a doubt the pioneers of the genre. When you mention Egyptian death metal the first name to instantly pop into your head is Nile. There are a few songs on this album which stray comletely away from the death metal, and even the metal mould completely. These are 'Kudurru Maqlu' and 'Die Rache Krieg Lied Der Assyriche'. The rest of this album is filled with arrangements and riffs influenced directly from the ancient Egyptian culture yet moulded carefully into death metal which is what makes Nile such a unique death metal band and one that isnt doomed to fall into the realm of tedium which seems to be the fate which befalls most death metal bands that are still around today. Relentless, crushing, punishing and brutal is all that could be said about Nile. They are a band who are set to revolutionise death metal, and a number of bands like Behemoth seem more than ready to follow in their footsteps.
The death metal passages are so relentlessly fast they stray often into the realm of grind, but every song has some form of atmospheric respite such as the synths heard halfway through 'Barra Edinazzu'. The sound of Nile is punchy and violent whilst epic and entombed with the mysteries of Ancient Egypt. Visions of vast golden deserts, pyramids, ancient pharoahs and mummys flash before your eyes, the Egyptian sounds driving Nile away from death metal into something enriched in history from many thousands of years ago. The instrumentation on this album is amazing and very diverse. Throughout the duration of 'Amongst The Catacombs Of Nephren-Ka' you will hear guitars, bass, drums, vocals, choir chants, tibetan monks, Damaru human skull drums, thigh bone flutes, Turkish gongs and dumbecks. The opening track 'Smashing The Antiu' is classic blasting death metal with no atmospheric respites, just a wall of brutality and blastbeats. You get the feeling that this is just going to be another standard brutal death metal release, yet the further you delve in the more Nile reveal themselves and you will realise this is a death metal band like no other leaving Cannibal Corpse seeming like childs play.
The intro to 'Ramses Bringer Of War' is incredibly effective, sounding like a film-score for a scene that is slowly building up with tension. There are a number of lead guitar solos on here which are brilliantly executed. The most notable one is heard in the middle of 'Stones Of Sorrow', one of the slower songs on here. Half of the lyrics are sung in Egyptian adding to the level of uneasiness and mystery surrounding Nile's sound. 'Die Rache Krieg Lied Der Assyriche' is a great song featuring traditional drum sounds, choirs, chants and very menacing semi-growled vocals. 'Opening Of The Mouth' is one of the standout songs on here. Opening with an Egyptian melody played on some form of flute it breaks out into a brutal blastbeat-laden passage with Karl Sander's devastatingly harsh growl over the top like a savage beast waiting to tear you apart and feast on your flesh. There is a small breakdown into traditional drumming which then builds up into a fast riff and the chorus. The pounding drumming will drill straight through your soul. Karl Sander's growl puts other death metal singers like Glenn Benton and Corpsegrinder to shame. Pete Hammoura is one of the best death metal drummers I have heard for a while. There are a number of different singers on this album, one with a deeper growl and one with a yelled growl. Both work incredibly well together. The second singer is used more over the slower passages.
I guess the sarcophagus and hieroglyphs on the CD cover say it all about Nile, before you even look at the band name itself. If you are looking for something experimental for the time it was released yet not losing death metal's brutality and drive then Nile is definately for you. Nile have made sure they do not lose diehard death metallers yet made themselves different enough as to not get boring. 'Amongst The Catacombs Of Nephren-Ka' is Nile's debut album and is a very impressive debut if I have ever heard one. The tightness and musicianship suggests a band who have been playing together for ten years or more. One of the best death metal releases I have heard for quite a while and is incredibly difficult to top. The only problem with 'Amongst The Catacombs Of Nephren-Ka' is that it is too short. When it finishes you are craving for more. The final song 'Beneath Eternal Oceans Of Sand' opens with semi-acoustic guitars similar in sound to Opeth before breaking out into a ballcrushingly brutal song, perfect to close the album. There is another breakdown into quieter semi-acoustic guitarwork and you get the feeling that this is going to fade out until the end however this is interruped by more yelling, frantic guitarwork and intense drumming. A well worth album to own in any self-respecting death metal fan's CD collection.
This album near approaches the perfect mix of brutality, technicality, and musicianship for death metal. It is difficult to describe the experience of listening to this album. The brutal death metal sections mesh perfectly with the Egyptian stylings.
The ancient Egyptian theme well suits death metal, as the culture may well have been mystical and highly advanced, but it was also violent, harsh, and brutal. The standard of music and appeal of some of the musicianship is such that I have been able to play it to non–metal fans, and they have been able to appreciate it, if not actually like it.
Musically, Nile are tight. Yes, this is ultra brutal stuff, but there are sudden stops and starts, and time changes, all done at high velocity. The album kicks off with the full on bludgeoning double of Smashing the Antiu and Barra Edinazzu. As the song titles suggest, much of the lyrical content on the album is in the language of ancient Egypt. It's not until the third track, Kudurru Maqlu, that the Egyptian musical influences kick in, creating a soundscape of a windblown, dust swept market place, complete with wailing chants. Ramses Bringer of War starts with a stirring military march, utilising horns, before blasting into more deathly frenzy.
Perhaps the standout track of the whole album is Die Rache Krieg Lied Der Assyriche. It's far from death metal, yet is powerful. It has a driving rhythm beneath it, with wailing and chanting choruses layered one on top of the other, gongs chiming, and then vocalist Karl Sanders intoning an incantation over top of it all. It is stunningly simple, yet effective and awe inspiring.
Many death metal fans do Nile a great disservice by comparing them to bands like Cannibal Corpse, Deicide, and Suffocation. Nile is so much more than any of those bands. Nile are in a class of their own.
I might seem to rate a lot of 100s, but let me explain my reasoning. If I think that the overall percentage of the album has a great need to be increased, I'm more likely to score higher. If I find absolutely nothing wrong with the album, I will rate it a 100. Such is the case with Amongst the Catacombs of the Nephren-Ka. I've heard people be brutally critical of Nile, calling them another Morbid Angel ripoff. I've got news for you, MOST DEATH METAL BANDS TAKE AFTER MORBID ANGEL. ESPECIALLY THE GOOD ONES. I'm a fan of quality, technical, brutal death metal. And where Morbid Angel now lacks, bands like Nile pick it up where they left off. This is by far the best Nile album, if you had to pick one. It's 33 minutes, short and to the fucking point. The production is excellent, less muddy than Black Seeds. In my original impressions of Nile, I had preconceptions of Egyptian themed death metal as being a bit of a potentially laughable shtick, a gimmick. But after learning more about the band, I realized that from the lyrical content down to the instruments used, Nile are serious. Real serious. Sanders, if I can recall correctly, collects ancient Egyptian artifacts, and texts. All of the lyrics hold mythological or historical significance, and those lyrics that you can understand, you can completely tell that this shit is brutal. Singing shit about evil forces, battles, tyrants, blasphemy, carnage, and the list goes on, but in an Egyptian context. Who'da thought that listening to death metal could be educational? The melodies and vocals are particularly sinister. The occasional usage of native Egyptian instruments only help create a powerful behemoth of an image of what these songs are about.
This shit ain't "The Mummy Returns".
Go get all Nile releases. But get this one first.
Songs: Smashing The Antiu, Barra Edinazzu, Serpent Headed Mask, The Howling Of The Jinn (etc. etc. etc...)