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Nile should need no introduction. This Egyptian themed grindy death metal band which hails from Greensville, South Carolina have been one of the darlings of the American death metal scene since the release of their mighty Black Seeds of Vengeance in 2000 (though all the trve guys will tell you that it was their debut album that was more important and that everything since then is crap). Since 1998 they've produced 6 stellar full-lengths, and while each one wasn't successively better than the last, the quality dip that one expects after a while (Angry Metal Guy's Law of Diminishing Recordings™) never really happened. But science has a way of catching up to you, and according to an interview that I read recently, Karl Sanders made an executive decision after he watched the infamous "Hitler Reacts to the new Morbid Angel record" video. He decided that changing anything ever was a terrible idea, because Hitler would get all upset about it, which apparently led to him not changing anything about his formula even a little bit on At the Gate of Sethu despite having thought about doing something that could be imagined to be the middle-ground between the classic Nile sound and his solo record Saurian Exorcisms. Given that you're fans of Nile, I assume you're also fans of history and that it goes without saying what happens when people try to appease Hitler.
At the Gate of Sethu starts out precisely like Those Whom the Gods Detest did before it. Actually, that's kind of not even exaggeration, "Kafir!" and "Enduring the Eternal Molestation of Flame" sound remarkably similar. And as the record progresses, that's kind of the impression that you get throughout. Everything on display on At the Gates of Sethu feels a bit like a caricature of a Nile record. The riffs are frantic, techy and endlessly running races up and down Arabic sounding scales. George Kollias' drumming is over-the-top, immense and equally technical; pounding in tact with every riff. I'm pretty sure his feet don't stop kicking those double-bass pedals for the record's whole 47 minutes. Bassist/vocalist Dallas puts in his normal performance, with Dim Mak-like crazy beat poet performances that sometimes don't even feel like they're in time with the music. Intersperse a couple of instrumental tracks ("Slaves of Xul" and "Ethno-Musical Cannibalisms"), write lyrics about spells and Egyptian mysticism and you've got yourself a pretty standard Nile record.
But unlike previous records, the thrashing and grinding and pummeling simply wash away in a gray tide of noise. Every Nile record has its own thing up to this point (even Ithyphallic's "short and sweet" approach, which I think is great); but At the Gate of Sethu does nothing new. And if the record does have a unique sound, it's that the band does a lot less of what I personally love about Nile. The combination of the late-90s death metal grind with almost a funeral doom approach to slow parts has always intersected with great melodic riffs that work like hooks and pull the listener into the song. And yet, while the grind parts are here—everywhere—the slow doom and groove parts—that is, the contrast in these paintings—rarely are touched. The heavy focus on grind also seems to have taken what little focus the band put on melodic riffs, which leaves At the Gate of Sethu feeling chaotic instead heavy, but also monochromatic. Hell, even the atmosphere that the band really made eternal with Black Seeds of Vengeance feels much more in the back seat.
When it comes right down to it, the only song on here I even really like is "Supreme Humanism of Meglomania." Other than that, the record is filled with duds and tracks that leave this Angry Metal Guy unmoved. Part of this may be production. The guitar tone is a tad thin and the bass is practically inaudible most of the time. The drums are immense, however, and probably too high in the mix (on a Nile record!? Oh wait...). But mostly, I just think this record suffers from a bad batch of riffs. In Sanders' push to appease Hitler, he forgot the lessons of history: Hitler does not get appeased. Instead, by writing a record full of flat, uninspired riffs and not thinking outside the box, he's now angered Hitler anyway. Go read the reviews at Metal Archives—that guy is pissed. Die-hard fans should check this out as always, maybe the changes are what you want from Nile. I certainly don't suggest the casual listener check this one out, though. Head back and start with Amongst the Catacombs of Nephran-Ka instead or Black Seeds of Vengeance, those records speak to the genius and inspiration that seem to be missing on this record.
For someone who has followed Nile’s ascension to everlasting fame through the years can see the now legendary group has been trying to achieve a perfect coalition of the darkest Egyptian/Middle Eastern themes with the trademark all-out brutal assault on the listeners’ ears befitting the metal gods. This has resulted in the band reverting back to their earlier style as in “Black Seeds Of Vengeance” and “In Their Darkened Shrines” where they focused more on the darker undertones which was beginning to take over the technical side, however awe-inspiring it was at that time. Nile then releases a monster of an album in “Annihilation Of The Wicked” which, I must say, blew the listener away with its extraordinary speed and complex time signatures and ,of course, Kollias’ inhuman expertise on the skins. This got the ball rolling, sending ripples across the metal community. Having shown what they could do when they set their souls upon it, Sanders &Co tries to incorporate Middle Eastern influences with their prolific skill with the instruments as is evident in the later albums but were not that successful .”Ithyphallic ” was great despite a few letdowns and the band turns out an insipid & a mediocre album(“Those Whom The Gods Detest”)which in my opinion ,could have used a bit more work considering the band’s skill. They still try to achieve this formula in their new album “At The Gate Of Sethu” but still commit the same mistakes as they did last time-an album which could be their Holy Grail-a perfect fusion of their inspirations and technical death metal-if they had given it a better shot.
The overall instrumentation is top-notch as usual, though the guitar tone is slightly dull but the production, contrary to what others say is reasonably ok, if not befitting the album’s flow, though the drums succumb to the blast beat bug, they don’t hog the limelight (I concur that the bass guitar is visibly ignored). The vocals is a bit weak ,with Sanders overshadowed by Tolerwade’s clean harsh shouts, which is a bit putting-off ,I was looking forward to the former’s deeper more intense death growls. However the songwriting process has undergone a revolution with the incorporation of more Ithyphallic & African (possibly Nubian) influences. Nile has expanded their horizons partially departing the realm of Egyptian myth, something which bands like Rudra, Amon Amarth etc which revolve around myth find hard to do, a brave move which sometimes backfires with the band losing sight of their main songwriting inspirations.
However the main worry regarding the album is the overall atmosphere. Surprisingly it is a mere patchwork of different tones reflecting mere flashes of the intense atmosphere they sought to create (they’ve already pulled it off in their earlier works and even in Ithyphallic).The ambient tracks don’t help one bit. The intro of “Slaves Of Xul” made me laugh out loud because when the band wanted to make good use of the interludes to compliment the “intense” atmosphere they thought they had created, their mish-mash of ideals make up a rather sterile flow of music and the message it tries to convey making a deep resounding growl, acceptable in a dark album like “Black Seeds..”, sounds like an ogre climaxing here! A sorry attempt indeed.
There are many tracks in the albums which still show Nile’s capability of making precision engineered brutal masterpieces like the ones in “Annihilation…..”.Notable examples include “The Inevitable Degradation Of Flesh”, “The Gods Who Light The Sky At The Gate Of Sethu”, “The Fiends Who Come To Steal The Magick of The Deceased”. But some tracks at the end of the album falter a little in the their structure, the flow sacrificed for the development of the already unsavory atmosphere. Overall the album offered excellent material for technical metal nerds to jerk off on without displeasing the brutal death metaller, but falters as a representation of their Ithyphallic ideals
I think Nile could learn from their past (pre-Kollias era, mind you) works to fix their predicament. Their initial EPs/demos like” Festivals Of Atonement”(1995?) and “Ramses Bringer Of War”(1996) offer a perfect combination of full-on assault on the senses with a clear ‘metal’ message conveyed.”Ramses..” starts off with the exceptionally done “Howling Of The Djinn” and sets the tone of the album right with a spellbinding war chant leaving the listener reeling. Similar examples include tracks like “Sarcophagus” “Unas-The Slayer Of The Gods “ and other earlier tracks. This is what Nile wants to do- attain flawless fusion of their ideals with fitting instrumentation.
Nile is a band that needs no introduction in the metal world, being that they're one of the most critically acclaimed bands in the genre, and the sub-genre they're classified as, which is technical death metal. They've already made a big name for themselves with albums such as 'Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka' and 'Annihilation of the Wicked', and after another quite impressive album, they would go on to create their magnum opus, 'Those Whom the Gods Detest', which was a landmark in experimentation and creative songwriting. However, it seems this time around that Karl Sanders (the Ithyphallic encyclopedia) and co. have decided to make a safe record, one that doesn't stray too far away from what made them massively successful.
I will admit, the first time I listened to this, I not only thought that it was the worst album Nile ever wrote, but I went so far as to call it the worst metal album of 2012. But when all of a sudden I got in a Nile mood, I decided to give this album another try, and it was a lot better than I had remembered it. There was still many flaws in my opinion, but I found it to be better than at least one of their releases, namely 'Black Seeds of Vengeance'.
Of course, Nile are top notch and tight on their instruments as they've always been, always on time, no noticeable or obvious mistakes. However, the guitar work by Dallas and Karl seems a little bit recycled this time around, The first track 'Enduring the Eternal Molestation of Flame' sounds at around close to a minute in the song when Kollias plays the 16th note thrash beat sounds almost exactly the same as nearly the same exact spot in the song 'Kafir!' off of the previous album. It sort of makes me question if Nile really are running out of ideas. The bass I'm sure would be wonderful if I could actually hear it. But unfortunately, it's not, and that's quite disappointing. George Kollias has always been a monster on the skins and this album is no exception, he is never (noticably) off anywhere on this album.
Lyrical themes are of course recycled, being that they've always talked about Egyptian themes, but they manage to keep it somewhat interesting through each and every album. Nile and their Egyptian themes is comparable to Deicide and their vehement Satanist themes, it fits and they never have to change their style. The vocals sound a bit tired on this record, which is quite sad, because on the previous album, it sounded so forceful and actually packed some sort of punch. Karl's gutturals sound so weak and Dallas' mid-ranged growls are okay at the very best. Not exactly impressed with their vocal performance very much here.
Everyone's main complaint (and mine at the first listen) was the production. The guitars sounded paper thin, so weak and lacked any power whatsoever. You can't hear the bass at all (as I've previously stated before). George's drums are triggered to all hell on this album it seems like, and I understand that it's pretty common now in the metal world, especially in death metal, but it sounds as if everything is so synthetic. The vocals are mixed way too high as with the drums, and that's yet another problem in common metal production. It also sounds as if the vocals and drums are fighting for attention. Basically, if I were to meet an aspiring producer, I would hand him/her this album and say 'This is how NOT to mix, master and produce a metal album'.
Despite all of these flaws, the major one being the production, I still like this album a lot more than I did and it will certainly get more plays from me in the future, but I can't say Nile left us on a very good note here. I can only hope they'll continue to grow and experiment in their compositions and make their next album as good or hopefully better than the great 'Those Whom the Gods Detest'. Oh, and Karl, please for the love of Ra, find a new producer. You guys desperately need it.
It’s a pattern we’ve seen before; regardless of musical genre, there will come a point in most ambitious artists’ lives where they will hit a plateau. As musicians become more confident and skilled within their style, there is often a yearning to see how far they can push their boundaries. This usually results in a string of progressively more complex and detailed albums. Ultimately, the artist will reach a point where they either cannot push the envelope any further, or long for the comforts of their earlier incarnations. Such was the story for Black Sabbath, Metallica, Bathory, Voivod, Dream Theater and most other bands that lived on past their glory days. So too, it seems, is the case for Nile and their seventh album, “At the Gate of Sethu”. Following the ambitious compositions, vicious hooks and untraditional instruments used in “Those Whom the Gods Detest”, Nile have returned to a more primordial state, focusing instead on a stripped-down approach reminiscent of their earlier material. To their credit, Nile’s unrelenting technical chops retain their claim as one of death metal’s best acts, but this regress has robbed their sound of many of the things that made them interesting to me in the first place.
Over the course of “Ithyphallic” and “Those Who the Gods Detest”, Nile had departed somewhat from the technical death metal style to focus more on sounds of oriental ambient music befitting their Egyptian mythological themes. Not only was this ‘Egyptian music’ being used in interludes; it was a vital part of the band’s musical expression- the epic climax to “Kafir!” comes to mind. Barring the non-metal instrumentation, these albums (with particular regards to the latter) took Nile past the confines of their technical death metal songwriting, fusing the music with excellent hooks and otherworldly atmosphere that made the albums work on a level beyond the style Nile were known for. “At the Gate of Sethu” takes the band’s sound to a time before the dynamic of these albums. The unrelenting aggression of their defacto magnum opus “Annihilation of the Wicked” appears to be the direction they were looking to take on this one. As a result, the songwriting has been generally condensed, the speed turned up and the unessential elements left for the jackals to feed upon. Although the potential to bring Nile back to their more aggressive form could have worked wonders, this latest album feels like a rehash of ideas, largely less inspired and memorable than the former style they are trying to rekindle. Nile’s cutthroat skill with their instruments hasn’t faltered any, but the songwriting lacks both of the momentum of their early work, and scope of their latter work.
Although it was likely a conscious decision in order to give the album a more stripped-down feeling, the production feels far less vital than it did on the last two albums. Although the now-scarce Egyptian instrumentation still enjoys the rich atmosphere I’ve come to associate with Nile’s interludes, the prevailing metal element feels like a studio throwback to somewhere between “In Their Darkened Shrines” and “Annihilation of the Wicked”. The rhythm guitars bear the brunt of the weakened production, sounding pretty dull compared to albums of the more recent past. Although George Kollias’ technical barbarism on the drumkit is the most impressive aspect of Nile’s performance this time around, the drum production sounds completely sterile, succumbing to the all-too common ‘trigger’ syndrome. Fortunately, the lead guitarwork sounds as great as it ever has, although this sense of inconsistent production is a bit of a problem in its own right. It’s a shame really, because some of the riffs on the album are fantastic. “The Eternal Molestation of Flame” in particular is a powerhouse of exciting death metal riffs. “The Inevitable Degradation of Flesh” is another great one, finding a firm balance between groove and dissonance. Although the technicality is constant throughout most of the album, most of the album passes by as something of a blur, one frantic riff after another. The highly informed and well-researched lyrics that have in part defined the band’s career are still here, but in a style of music where people complain ‘you can’t even understand what they’re saying’, it’s not enough to keep the perception of quality from taking a firm dip southward.
Nile’s latest album is the musical equivalent of a celebrity acting in a biographical film about themselves; even though this is their signature style, it comes off feeling contrived anyways. Nile’s willingness to go beyond the boundaries of what is normally considered ‘death metal’ is one of the big things that got me into them in the first place. “At the Gate of Sethu” has nothing necessarily wrong about it, but goddamn, was I ever expecting more from them.
The arrival of a new Nile album would typically have been an occasion which I would not miss. Despite being deep into their career and firmly seated in the upper echelon of popular extreme metal , the band have had a knack of sticking to their guns whilst their peers succumb to their own success. The surfeit of mediocre albums which have emerged from death metal's big names recently underlines the difficulty of treading a path so highly scrutinized and the eternal balancing act between complacency and over-experimentation. Fans want both progression and familiarity; they want homage to old classics, but also development and growth.
Having (in my view) delivered such a tall order with the recent "Those Whom the Gods Detest", I was dismayed, though not surprised, when the samples of "At The Gate of Sethu" that floated my way did not excite me. I, however, did not entirely expect that the first issues I felt listening to the sample track "The Fiends Who Come To Steal the Magick of the Deceased" could safely be extrapolated to the rest of the album.
The first major qualm I developed with this track was the poor flow and pacing. The riffs and sections meander around, exploring no doubt very complex time signatures and phrasings, but ultimately leave the listener uninterested. Although this track is the worst perpetrator of this writing style, other tracks, particularly "Enduring the Eternal Molestation of Flame", also suffer.
The coherence of the song structures and the flow between sections remains a problem throughout the album. Rather than loving any song in its entirety, I found myself loving infinitesimally small sections and segues. For a band who are particularly well-versed in writing songs which arc and flow so well, I found this a bit of a step down. Classic tracks like "Cast Down the Heretic" and "Execration Text" are precision-engineered to pummel the listener while tracks like "Black Seeds of Vengeance" and "Ithyphallic" are tracks which are written solely to unleash a single devastating tumult - none of the tracks on "At the Gate of Sethu" seem to be written with purposes in mind. They sound like riffs written in isolation and glued together, a trick which is by the book for bands like Dying Fetus, but Nile simply do not play that kind of riff-laden death metal and this writing style does little for them.
The vocals of Mike Breazedale are, of course, a talking point for critics of this new album and one which I cannot fathom whether I wholly dislike or not. The sputtering, semi-clean shouts appear in numerous locations on the disc, and while I am largely fond of their tone, I feel that Nile have missed the point in their usage. Previous passages of similar vocal styles ("Unas Slayer of Gods" and "To Dream of Ur") used such singing styles to far better effect by using them in line with changes in the pacing of the music. This album, however, leans much further toward using these vocals as a semi-permanent third vocalist, which becomes somewhat grating in songs like "Tribunal of the Dead".
The vocals elsewhere, however, sound good and are well-produced. The band is still leaning toward a bit too much Toler-Wade, but when both he and Sanders (and even Vesano if I am correctly reading the booklet notes) step up to the mic, the songs grow in stature tenfold. The crisp vocal production, however, does not speak much for the guitars, which sound thin and under-distorted. The crunchier guitar tone and lack of audible bass really robs Nile of their gigantic drop-A low end and the doomier sections really suffer for this.
The guitar production also sounds far more sterile than ever before. Previous works have featured textured layering in which distinct lead lines or even the entire riff played on a Nashville tuned guitar would be added to widen the sonic footprint. None of this attention to detail is included here, or if it is it is very poorly mixed.
The drumming is perhaps the most positive thing about this album, but this has become par for the course with Kollias behind the kit. His drumming is not incredibly flashy, but it remains uncompromisingly fast and punishing - no surprises, no complaints.
Overall, I feel that this is not the death knell for Nile. The band have another great album in them I am sure, but "At the Gate of Sethu" is certainly not it. While the complexity and technicality of Nile is still present for all to see, I feel that a certain degree of complacency has crept into the band's mindset with regards to songwriting and the final product. Either that or "At the Gate of Sethu" is a masterpiece that I have yet to fathom. A harsh review, I know, but bands of this caliber can do better.
Nile are and always have been a ubiquitous force in churning out ecstatically classy death metal. Their proficiency in composing and songwriting is virtually unmatched in this day and age. After a dry, desertified spell which was Those Whom The Gods Detest, At The Gates of Sethu is a colossal reminder of their status at the head of the musical sphinx.
Enduring the Eternal Molestation of Flame is a blasting aural punishment from the land of Ra. From thereon the album ploughs the entire desert and harvests the enormity of the ethno- musicological cannibalism. The vast winding-sentenced song names further punctuate the crushing nature of this record while the tasteful amalgamation of avant garde guitars, chants, and relentlessly pounding drumming with the staccato blasts further intensify the inevitable degradation of the listeners' ears. To further complicate the unpronounceable song names that are each as long as the mighty Nile, the rapid tempo changes and sheer tightness of these gods that light up the sky are surely not for the frail listener who finds solace in a fancy solo that gets passed for technical death metal. Because, when the wrath is done, these mighty gods succeed in naturally liberating your fear through the ritual deception of death metal, thus becoming the singular flag bearers of the supreme humanism of megalomania.
Though the adjectives and expletives used to describe Nile and their mythological masterpiece might eventually be extinguished, their status still remains. And the only glitch would be the drum production, which could have been more powerful and stabbing to further intensify this rigid blockbuster. The album still stands tall as among the best releases of 2012 and certainly among the greatest of Nile's work.
Nile have never really been what one would refer to as a ‘controversial’ band. They have the great lure of the Egyptian mythology and a rather consistently solid back catalog, so it is surprising to hear all of this uproar. I’ve always enjoyed them, especially since they were the first death metal band that I really got. Given these things, I was both nervous and anxious to see what was really going on when I popped this sucker into my CD player.
I firmly believe that most of the hullabaloo associated with this album is not supported by any substantive evidence. I won’t deny that this is not the best album (In Their Darkened Shrines), but it’s not the pile of crap people claim it is. There is a lot of good going on here, and the album isn’t a big change for the band as a whole, but it is radically different from its predecessor Those Whom the Gods Detest. So let’s try and sort out what is a pile of dog crap and what isn’t.
The biggest change that I noticed listening to this album for the first time was the stylistic emphasis of the band from the previous album. Over the past couple of albums, Nile had progressively gotten more epic and symphonic with their sound, beginning with songs like Unas, Slayers of the Gods and Von Unaussprichlichen Kulten to these tracks taking up the majority of Those Whom the Gods Detest. This album is almost pure death metal. The Egyptian elements only shine through in certain moments of melody. But the big drawn out epics are replaced with gut ripping fast paced semi-technical death metal tracks like The Inevitable Degradation of Flesh and Natural Liberation of Fear Through The Ritual Deception of Death.
Granted, this shift away from the symphonic sound is not totally the rule on the album. The only really bad song on the album is the final; Chaining the Iniquitous. It pretty much sounds like ripped off melodies from Those Whom the Gods Detest and honestly sounds like a B-side from that album. Still, horn sections are used to great effect for atmosphere in The Gods Who Light Up the Sky at the Gate of Sethu and Tribunal of the Dead. Flairs of acoustic guitar like instruments also help to spice up tracks like The Fiends Who Come to Steal the Magick of the Deceased and When My Wrath is Done.
Another major complaint that was seen with this album was that the production was terrible (probably the thing you hear the most on any piece of music). This one does hold more water than the previous though. When the guitars get going, the sound is probably indistinguishable from other albums, but that is just the high notes. Lower stringed and more brutal passages down bring as much heat to the table, with less tender love and care being given to these sections. As a result, the dynamics of many songs come off a little flat.
However, the guitar licks are some of Sanders’ best on this album. The technical death-thrash main riff of The Gods Who Light Up the Sky at the Gate of Sethu is impossible to not enjoy, and the tomb crushing chugging of Tribunal of the Dead is more than likely to result in multiple neck injuries. The band even goes northern a little to bring in what feels like melodic death metal leads on Supreme Humanism of Megalomania, which makes for a really memorable change of pace. These songs all have complex melodies that still manage to get stuck in your head and force you to come back crawling on your knees begging for more. This is one of Karl Sanders’ prouder moments.
The solos are also fantastic. When My Wrath is Done becomes transformed from a mid- paced track to an absolute abuse of the fret board as Sanders’ shreds around with a tinge of melody for a solid 45 seconds. Natural Liberation of Fear Through the Ritual Deception of Death is home to another intense solo, which brings a surprising energy to a song about playing dead.
Another sub-complaint about the production is the drum sound. I’m kind of on the fence with this one, which is odd to put in a piece of writing that is purely opinion. The snare sounds a bit too hollow at times, but for the most part the only problem is that the drums are set back in the mix, which tends to draw away a certain intensity. This is also not George Kollias’ best work. There are some impressive fills like on Enduring the Eternal Molestation of the Flame and The Fiends Who Come to Steal the Magick of the Deceased, but a lot of other songs feature skilled drumming, and it feels that for a pure death metal album, his talents are not being used to the fullest to contribute to the band. I kind of doubt there is anything on here that no one else could play, but there is still some moderately interesting stuff.
The bass still has trouble coming through, but I certainly feel it more in the mix during churning sections on the album. It’s still further back than the drums, but it is brought out during solos to provide some much needed rhythm where sometimes the song gets lost in a sea of melody.
Nile also help to make their stamp clear without injecting it directly into songs through the use of interludes, a practice that has been favored by them more recently. Slaves of Xul is decent, with some cool vocals by Jon Vesano, and it does a pretty good job of setting up an evil ambiance for the title track. Ethno-Musicological Cannibalisms fulfills its mission statement as described in the liner notes (Sanders really is starting to hate the music media…ouch man…), and delivers some really cool virtuoso work with interesting instruments. It’s a shame that it so short, but that being said, it does not really flow well with the doom-influenced Tribunal of the Dead.
The third (kind of the fourth) major claim against this albums is the vocals. Barked harsh vocals take the place of deep guttural rumblings as the favored and most common form of lyrical delivery, which takes away some degree of brutality. Many people will say that Nile is losing its identity here, but I think that’s an exaggeration. The barked vocals are still a nice fit and fill in as what feels like an accurate depiction of what these chants could sound like in their original tongue. And its not like the inhumanely low vocals are gone; rather, when they appear, the passage becomes ungodly brutal and heavy. I know that I prefer the lower range vocals myself, but this album helped me come around to the other style as well. People will always hate change. And these are easier to understand…
There is still the actual vocals themselves to discuss, not just the style. The words are flying at you almost as fast as the rest of the music, so it does become a bit trying to hear everything correctly versus a slow mumbling. You can pick up on vocal hooks the first time through, with the devastating chorus of The Inevitable Degradation of Flesh totally knocking me off my feet the first time I heard “All who die shall ROT!”. Tribunal of the Dead also features some really catchy lines and melodies like those with “I fear I may have fallen out with the Regime”. Great stuff is also found on The Ritual Deception… and When My Wrath is Done. The lyrics themselves are also well put together, and the songs are really good representations of them from a storytelling perspective, as well as being totally brutal and metal.
Despite its criticisms, I certainly enjoyed this album. At the Gate of Sethu does suffer from a couple of minor problems that keep it from truly becoming great, but it is still a quality piece of work from one of my favorite bands. Where else will you get quality tech-death with the interesting and intellectually stimulating melodies and culture of Egypt and North Africa blended so smoothly and organically together? Give the guys credit; they have it down to a science now. Buy if you know you like this stuff; beginners should start elsewhere. I recommend the deluxe version of the album because the album art is wicked cool and the liner notes really add a greater understanding to the album. Best tracks (good to absolutely awesome): The Inevitable Degradation of Flesh, The Gods Who Light Up the Sky at the Gate of Sethu, and Tribunal of the Dead.
If we put history and archaeology on the right hand, and then we put technical death metal and brutal compositions on the left hand, if you collide the two hands together, the desert golden sand will blow and the dust will fill your ears, and this is exactly what Nile always manage to make while creating a new album. The triplex legendary technical death metal band Nile has released the seventh full-length album "At the Gate of Sethu" to leave another footprint on the ground of your mind forever, these guys have always showed the world another kind of archaeological brutality with their passion and inspiration, after the successful release "Those Whom the Gods Detest" the world was expecting another great release, and all the expectations now became true with this new record.
Nile has always been a superb band and different from all the other acts in the world today, the deep rooted inspiration of Karl Sanders gave a lot of meanings to the core of the band and made the technical elements so expressive, and Dallas Toler-Wade have always won his wars against the neck of his guitar, every single pounding riff here shows how the western instruments (such as guitars) can reflect a very deep ancient Egyptian essence. And here is the mighty George Kollias who crashes every single thought inside your head and turns it into mania with his hammering hands, the percussions elements of Nile have been always interesting and professional.
These eleven tracks here hide a lot of brutality behind the amazing artwork that has been done by Seth Siro Anton, the harsh vocalist and the bassist of the Greek band SepticFlesh. Nile managed to start some tracks with atmospheric atmosphere full of imagination and fancy, the track "When My Wrath Is Done" starts with a stringy instrument which gave an ancient depth to the song, the track continued its coarseness and barbarity and seductive solos, some additional keyboards have been added here to give some dimensions too. The same texture goes with the track "Tribunal of the Dead" which I really admire, slower riffing at the beginning of the track helps to warm up your ears before the starting of the blast-beating scenario, the same starting atmospheric patterns are existed in the tracks "Enduring The Eternal Molestation Of Flame" and "The Gods Who Light Up the Sky at the Gate of Sethu" which is my favorite track in this record.
Some other tracks start with blasting riffs like "The Fiends Who Come to Steal the Magick of the Deceased" and "Natural Liberation of Fear Through the Ritual Deception of Death", at first I was really amazed by the new vocals texture that has been used in this album, because I've never heard it in the previous albums, though I hated it at first, but with giving the album a couple of spins I realized that is not bad at all, this kind of vocals texture pushes the vocals forward and give the throats more organic role, about the growling, I have to admit that I liked the growling of the previous album more than this album, because its way more deeper and clearer.
The track "Supreme Humanism Of Megalomania" starts with melodic riffing style, which is something we don't usually expect while listening to Nile. The track "The Chaining of the Iniquitous" is the longest track in this record and it contains a lot of slow and fast riffing pattern with a lot of melodies and harmonies, the double-bass and the mind-blowing rolls made a big void for the solos and the growling to take a place inside the track. The production of this album is wonderful though I hated the growling, but the mastering of the tracks has united the sound of history with the brutality.
Finally, six albums have been made in the past and a new album is calling for your ears this year, I wont compare this album with any other release, because somehow there are a lot of new and old touches here, so just let your mind judge the brutality and the beauty of this record while giving the tracks a listen, sink inside the Egyptian legends and enjoy every single riff, this record is very recommended for all the death metal fans around the world.
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Nile is (was, rather) one of the greatest brutal/technical death metal bands around. They had it all; the technicality, the brutality and the creative songwriting skills. Sacrifice Unto Sebek is probably one of my favorite Nile songs, and I think that it is one of their opus magnums. I was shitting my pants in anticipation for Nile's new album after Those Whom The Gods Detest. I was hoping that they'd release another Black Seeds of Vengeance or Annihilation of the Wicked. It would be about three years before they finally gave us some info on a new album, and I waited and checked for updates religiously.
When I heard the first song they released, I was left with a blank expression on my face. It didn't really sound like a Nile song was supposed to. The vocals were good (but that was because Karl was singing most of the song) the riffing was decent, but something was lacking. Maybe it was the thin sounding guitar tone, maybe it was the apparent lack of brutality, either way I didn't like what I heard very much at all. When I went on to listen to the rest of the album (when it leaked, mind you, I sure as hell wasn't going to buy it), my disappointment increased tenfold.
The first and biggest problem that I have are the vocals. Except for Karl, the vocal performance here is abysmal. Dallas, for some reason, has abandoned his low bellowing grunting for some annoying as hell mid-range shout. I don't know why he did that but it really sucks. The first time I heard a song with Dallas doing vocals I had a headache by the time it was over. I thought that Karl and Jon did a pretty good job themselves, but they hardly did any vocals on this album as compared to Dallas. . . . fuck.
The drumming here, according to Karl, were supposed to be kicked up a notch here. They weren't, to say the least, it was all hype. Kollias isn't a bad drummer in any sense of the word, he's one of the fastest and most technical. Nothing here, however, shows that he stepped it up a notch. He doesn't really try anything new or experimental here. Unfortunately, I don't think that Kollias' drumming can save this album despite his technical prowess on the drumkit.
This album sucks pretty badly. As an album on its own it isn't that bad, but this is supposed to be a Nile album. Had this been any other band I probably would've given them a higher rating, but this is Nile. The band has set the standards to be pretty high, so I don't think I'm in the wrong here when I say that this gets less than a 75.
I read a lot of complaints about this album on various sites, saying it lacks originality, creativity and so forth... but that's Nile. I mean, this band does one thing, and does it well, be it Egyptian/Middle Eastern influenced death metal. They cannot reinvent themselves with every record they put out, and neither should they. I was very hesitant at first to lend my ears to their last piece of work because of all the negativity surrounding it. Well, now I can say without a doubt that just like their six last, this record is a solid and very interesting one.
The album starts off with "Enduring the Eternal Molestation of Flame", and it doesn't take long before we are once again introduced to George Kollias' incredible drumming skills. This guy could drag the album all by himself with the energy he's displaying. If you're familiar with Nile, you know you're in for a ton of blast beats, but he also makes good use of fills and kicks, always well timed. I also appreciated his work with the cymbals. I could go on and on with him, but I think everyone knows he's one of the most talented in the genre, so if you find a source of disappointment on here, that certainly won't be him. As usual, you have Karl Sanders and Dallas Toler-Wade handling the guitars, and for this album the bass parts. I find the riffs very enjoyable, following in the same vein as they always did of course. Is it original? Is it creative? Yes and no, but for a band having the same influences for about 20 years, they don't fall in the overly repetitive category in my opinion. There's always something great to hear, even though sometimes you could swear you heard that riff before. But you know, I won't complain if I like the song in its whole. That would be like saying I can't really like chocolate today because I already had some last week. Anyway, I read some complaints are directed towards the production of the said guitars, qualifying it of weak or not so strong as on their precedent records. I can agree in part with that, but the production is far from weak. The sound is great, crushing and I can make out all what they're doing. That should be sufficient. The bass is heard, and that's about all I can say. It's following the rythm, adding that smooth edge to the riffs. I don't know if having a "real" bassist would have made things different, but it's not a major issue.
The vocals are once again handled by both guitarists, without much variation from their other albums. Toler-Wade still uses his death growls he's known for and sometimes a kind of screamed/spoken vocals which seem new. Sanders is still making use of his crocodile-esque very low growls, if you may. I always had that image in mind when hearing him.
I got into this album's atmosphere as quickly as with their others. It seems to be another complaint by some people that they couldn't, but not for me. Anyway, even though we all hear the same music, we interpret it differently. I find this is the great thing about music.
If you're a Nile fan you should absolutely at least listen to this album before deciding to buy it or not. It seems to divide the community, so I guess it's up to everyone to individually make up their mind on it. I was charmed as soon as the first track blasted through my speakers. It may not be your case.
Let's get this straight right from the get-go. This album is a MASSIVE disappointment on all accounts. In almost every perceivable way, Nile has severely disappointed. The band that churned out some of the greatest death metal albums, such as the first and ungodly ATCONK, the second brilliantly progressive and, in many ways, a haunting effort, BSOV, to the BEST modern day death metal masterpiece, in my opinion, ITDS, has finally hit rock bottom.
Where does the album, and the band, go wrong? Firstly, the production. It's AWFUL in a number of ways. The guitar sound has been stripped away and made incredibly thin, with hardly any gain present. I had recently bought a new sound card, and was enjoying a number of releases with a whole new sound to back them up with. I was anxious to play Sethu, and when I did, I received a slap right across my face. I had to tinker with my setup greatly to ensure the album sounded bearable at least. The drums, while played highly competently by George Kollias, who still is one of the best, most ferocious drummers in the death metal scene, were made to sound super-thin as well, just like the guitars. It takes one hell of a producer to fuck up Kollias's playing, and Neil Kernon just is that producer. Bravo, Mr.Kernon.
The vocals, and here is where the band falters in creativity, just do not sound powerful or are delivered with the finesse that the band achieved back on ITDS and AOTW. The experimentation with clean vocals, and having Dallas sing nearly 80 % of the album, something I loathed back in Ithyphallic as well, turned me off completely. Dallas only sounds good when he is backed up throughout the songs by other vocalists, and this is not the case with Nile anymore. The once-respected and profound three-vocal-attack is dead and buried, and the replacement for that greatness has not done the job. The only positive thing I can say about the vocals, and lyrics, for that matter, is that they are not repeated constantly, in chant-sections, as they were starting from Ithyphallic and down to the last album, TWTGD. Other than that, the band disappoints majorly.
There just does not seem to be much I can say about the album that warrants a recommendation. I was expecting the band to attempt something different, and some might say that them experimenting with clean vocals that pop up here and there is indeed something different. This so-called 'difference' should have been eliminated if the final product ended up sounding the way it did. There really seems to be no excuse in the world for a half-decent effort, with some interesting sections in songs, and some well-played, if not memorable, leads, to be complemented with such an awful production job that does its best to destory an otherwise 50-60 % rated album. For that, the score bottles down.
In the end, save your hard-earned money and buy Nervecell's Pyshcogenocide or Cattle Decapitation's latest REAL masterpiece, Monolith of Inhumanity, if you really are in the mood for some crushing death metal. Avoid Nile's At the Gate of Sethu for it was one painful listen from the start to finish.
Okay, so here is the latest output from American death metallers, Nile. The interesting concept of all of Nile subject theme has always been on Ancient Egyptian context and this album serves no different. The issue Nile has had over the years is attracting a wide spread appeal from the extreme metal audience, their past work is either hailed as brilliant or too difficult to become immersed. This is where At the Gates of Sethu steps in, a very noticeable thing about this album is the fact that it is incredibly accessible for the everyday metalhead, Nile have shortened their songs’ length in order to maintain the listener’s attention.
Not that this removes any element of their technical brutality however, this album is devastatingly brutal. From the offset the tracks blast their way through with incredible breakneck drumming from George Kollias and intricate technical guitar work from Karl Sanders and Dallas Toler-Wade. Due to the fact this is album number seven by now Nile have fully established their sound and this album serves no break away from the mould. Tracks open steadily often with orchestral sounds straight from epic movies then deliver into steady sweep picking of the guitars. Whilst you could argue that this eventually becomes tedious, for fans of the band it delivers excellently. Vocally, Sanders vocals are top notch, delivering the growls one is to expect. One has to note that there are unique standout elements to this album, from the Egyptian inspired musicianship on ”The Fiends Who Come to Steal the Magick of the Deceased” to the incredible riff on ”The Gods Who Light Up the Sky at the Gate of Sethu” that just encourages headbanging in a live performance. Also, the limited edition holds two bonus tracks upon the standard edition’s closure. The two bonus tracks are entirely instrumental and just serve to highlight the music behind Nile but by this point they can become tiresome.
To conclude by this point you are either a fan of Nile or not. This album is not revolutionary in its musicianship but highlights the technicality and brutality behind Nile, and can be considered to be a gateway for newcomers to Nile’s music. Whilst it can drag in elements there are aspects of this album that will stand out to the listener and could effectively hook them to countless listens.
Stand out tracks: The Gods Who Light Up the Sky at the Gate of Sethu, The Fiends Who Come to Steal the Magick of the Deceased
Nile, you have finally achieved something that I once believed to be impossible. You have successfully made a poor album. Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka revealed the brutality and energy you put into your music. Black Seeds of Vengeance showed the metal community how you could create atmosphere. In Their Darkened Shrines forced people to realize how excellent you were at infusing choral sounds effects with metal. Annihilation of the Wicked was arguably your most unrelenting and destructive album to date. Ithyphallic, while not the most unique album in your discography, saw you holding to your style and unleashing more vicious music. Those Whom the Gods Detest had more experimentation with middle eastern influences. What does this album have? Pretty much nothing of major interest. Well, let's get down to business and explore the reasons as to why this album is a steaming pile of crocodile feces.
Unlike previous albums, the overall sound of the band on At the Gate of Sethu is pitifully lacking in power. I'm not sure if Nile has simply run out of steam, good musical ideas, or both. The album is a sonic assault, but nothing really captivates you. You could listen to one song on here and not miss out on anything. The album has some solid riffs and good guitar solos, but offers nothing else. Even the once fascinating and creative instrumentals Nile produced aren't found on this album. In their place are tribal grunting and yelling as well as a poor attempt to make a song fit for a film set in Egypt. The combination of poor instrumentals and underwhelming metal content leaves the album feeling rather wooden.
Also, what in the name of Ra was Nile thinking with the backup vocals on "The Fiends Who Come to Steal the Magick of the Deceased?" In their desperation to add something different to this album, Nile actually managed to create more reason not to like this album.
Another aspect of this album which leads to its undoing is the guitar tone. It doesn't feel as devastating as it did on prior albums. The tone feels more like Nile is aiming for speed and technicality rather than brutality. An odd path to take considering the brutal quality of their music only worked incredibly well for six albums straight. The album feels less oppressive than all of their past work, and this was definitely a bad move.
The album feels like Nile's work, but a very watered down version at that. The kings of death metal now have a stain on their otherwise solid musical career. If any Nile album were to split their fan base, I think it would be this one. Some Nile fans will enjoy it, others will not. This is one Nile fan which is not impressed in the slightest by this release. For anyone trying to get into this band, do not start with this album. Try giving Annihilation of the Wicked a spin and see if you like the style.
At the Gate of Sethu, another solid release from the South Carolina death metallars, Nile. This has to be the most atmospheric album Nile have released so far. Their previous releases are pure death metal, speed and sheer brutality with a pinch of Egyptian atmosphere. While this album delivers the same speed and brutality, it delivers even more. In this release, you are up to a darker more haunting atmosphere; as it doesn't only focus on the speed but also focuses on some slow riffs that amazingly go with the Egyptian ambiance. All that, along with the brutality of death metal are what make At the Gate of Sethu one hell of an album.
Having spoken of the amazing atmosphere of the album, let's tackle the memorability of most of the songs. The guitars are very solid, technical riffs here and there with quite some really great atmospheric Egyptian-like sound. I have had some quite hard time remembering most of the songs, some parts of them being a little monotonous. Nevertheless, the atmospheric riffs kind of break the monotony and make the songs quite memorizable. There are two instrumental tracks on this album, Slaves of Xul and Ethno-Musicological Cannibalisms delivering the atmosphere being created here, a very dark and evil one.
The production on this album is actually great. The guitars are very solid as I have mentioned, very heavy delivering the sheer brutality of death metal. The drums are really amazing, their great sound does George Kollias's playing justice. I personally love the vocals on this one, not much to say really. A great production done here nonetheless.
In my opinion, this album is a must-have for Nile and death metal fans. It is another great release by the band through Nuclear Blast. It is the best death metal can have, in my opinion; brutal and fast yet slightly melodic riffs, with fast yet solid drums, and amazing death metal growls. What are you waiting for, go ahead and buy the damn thing.
Enduring the Eternal Molestation of Flame
The Fiends Who Come to Steal the Magick of the Deceased
The Inevitable Degradation of Flesh
The Gods Who Light Up the Sky at the Gate of Sethu
Supreme Humanism of Megalomania
The Chaining of the Iniquitous
Nile is one of those bands who just seems to spew out one great album after another. It seems like they can do no wrong! Every time they put out a new album I listen to it for a couple of weeks and the music and compositions just keep growing and growing and it always ends up being one of my fave albums of the respective years.
So now we have Nile's latest offering; At The Gate of Sethu. In general terms this album is exactly what I have come to expect from Nile. Stellar performances all around and some great death metal influenced by egyptian themes.
This time around they have done a lot of experimenting with the vocals which, for the most part, work quite well. They used ex-Nile member Jon Vesano a lot for the vocal work on this record. I assume it's the more clean vocal parts that he's done, but I am a bit unsure about this. It does fall short from time to time as is the case at 2:33 in "Tribunal of the Dead" where the vocals seems forced and a bit silly. Jon definitely is at his best with the more growling/clean passages. And I could have done without the very present James Hetfield'ish "tribunal-AH!" where the vocalist seems to add an "AH!" to every last word in a sentence. It just sounds off to me. But overall, great work.
So basically this album is really good. Plenty of good melodies and catchy riffs to go around. What bothers me about it, and the reason for the relatively low score compared to earlier Nile albums, is that it seems a bit inconsistent throughout the record. The acoustic passages doesn't flow as well as they do on earlier records, and particular one guitar solo part at 2:12 in "When My Wrath Is Done" seems off to me. That is not to say that I dislike it as such.
Another thing that bothers me a tiny bit is the production. It's well produced and I like the production, especially the drum production seem very organic and dynamic compared to the over-produced death metal albums that are released. What bothers me is that the production on this album does seem to be a tiny bit step back compared to Those Whom the Gods Detest. You just can't help but compare to older albums, and it seems like the new production is a bit too clean. Nile has gone from some really muddy productions back in the day to the, in my opinion, perfectly balanced production on Gods Detest. The muddiness used to give Nile this almost ancient sound. That's still present on this album because of the music itself, but the production doesn't support it very well.
As I mentioned there's some really good tunes on this album. The highlights are many, and my favorites so far are: The Fiends Who Come To Steal The Magick Of The Deceased, The Inevitable Degradation Of Flesh, The Gods Who Light Up The Sky At The Gate Of Sethu, Supreme Humanism Of Megalomania and Tribunal of the Dead (even though I find that vocal part at 2:33 to be a bit silly).
The vocals are varied a lot this time around. There's everything from the deep guttural growls to the semi-clean vocals which adds a bit of the old-school Nile back into the band. I like this!
The guitar work is the best you'll hear on any death metal record. Both Dallas and Karl delivers spades of fast riffs with exceptional precision. There's some really good solos on there and the slow melodic passages and some of the riffs are very memorable and helps bring this album up into the elite.
Kollias is mindblowing! That dude is just a monster of a drummer. And his technique seems to allow him to keep the dynamics in there just from sheer power when hitting the drums. This is definitely one of the greatest highlights of the album - the dynamics! I really like that Nile keeps that in there instead of just sampling the crap out of everything. Don't ever change that guys!
Overall and really great album, a bit inconsistent when you listen to it from start to finish, but the great songs and compositions make up for it no doubt!
Go buy it, now!
Nile have held a devastatingly brutal place in the metal scene, and over the course of their eleven year career have released seven full-length albums to date. The South Carolina originated group have slowly grown in popularity, having been widely recognized for both their 2007 effort Ithyphallic, and the follow up, Those Whom the Gods Detest, in 2009. After such a long career with so many albums in their discography, can Nile still deliver a fresh and crushing experience?
From the very start At the Gates of Sethu grips the listener by their skull and pushes inward with crushing brutality; "Enduring the Eternal Molestation of Flame" sets the mood of the album within the first thirty seconds and spends the remaining four minutes wreaking havoc with a frenzy of tight lead solos and cheap-but-thrilling squeals. "The Fiends Who Come to Steal the Magick of the Deceased" uses its bendy hooks to latch deep into ones psyche, embedding hauntingly memorable chants which make the flesh crawl. Though the previous two songs make a great introduction to the plethora of crushing content, "The Inevitable Degradation of Flesh" is where everything is given a real breath of life and comes with some of the catchiest lyrics on the album.
There is a definite raw quality production here, and it shows in overly echo-induced tracks like "When My Wrath Is Done". This isn't a bad thing, and it works well given the ancient Egyptian theme that Nile works with and also gives them the signature sound that they have spent their career creating. However, much like the album artwork and ensuing promotional pictures, there is an overproduced quality kicking around however minor it may be, the tracks are blatantly recorded in clear quality and edited to sound raw. For the type of content produced and the amount of sound that is going on, this is a good production move for Nile and the mixing matches.
What lies behind At the Gates of Sethu is a very dense and ancient atmosphere brought to life by Egyptian cultured instrumental tracks and bits of this style entombed throughout the contents. The first instrumental track is situated roughly halfway through the track list, "Slaves of Xul" makes use of rhythmic bongos and an effect that can't quite be placed that is used to mimic what would be a whip. Soon, this track carves an image of Egyptian slaves being forced to drag stones and superiors on carts across the dry sands as moans, groans and grunts fill the background and a more prominent voice speaks in tongues unknown. The second instrumental track, "Ethno-Musicological Cannibalisms", also makes use of an acoustic guitar and crushing theatrical bass that thunderously sends the last half of the album into overcast darkness.
In comparison to the latter half of the album, "Ethno-Musicological Cannibalisms" and onward, the first half sounds sunny and upbeat. When the second instrumental strikes, everything takes on a much heavier and darker overtone than what was presented before. One can almost feel the dark clouds rolling over and clouding the skies as chaos begins to unfold and crypts are infiltrated. "Tribunal of the Dead" is chocked with sludge filled riffs that slow down to the point of nearly stopping and deep, pounding drumming that just bring a whole new level of heaviness to Nile.
The listener will be left to believe this is the heaviest track on At the Gates of Sethu until the ending track, "The Chaining of the Iniquitous", begins. Chillingly encased in whipping chain effects, Nile uses this element to their advantage. A theatrical style synthetic introduction soon becomes coupled with an evil hiss, reminiscent of a mist of death, that wafts randomly throughout the song. This track encompasses the deepest gutterals, provocatively melodic guitars, and backing double bass drumming that sends a shock wave throughout the material as the kicks and hits leave a deep echo behind.
Many may say that this is still the same Nile of old, and while this is true the band haven't lost their touch or ability to create impressionable music in their own brand of brutality. At the Gates of Sethu is full of ear candy, abundant with mood setting cinematic bits which are tossed in for flavor and tons of brutiful technicality to go along with. Hard hitting, deep drumming is really what gives this album its foundation and the vocals have a tantalizing way of keeping the material fresh time and time again. A high recommendation of Nile fans and listeners looking for something immersive and original.
- Villi Thorne
What is going on. Seriously, I see Morbid Angel for the first time last year days before they shat out Illest Divine Anus, and two months ago I saw Nile for the first and second times at festivals round Asia, and now this. "What, you don't like the new Nile album? All the reviews online are really good. I'm going to buy it from HMV" I know, and that's why I'm writing this a few days after you probably pre-ordered it, sucker. This is a seriously flawed and pretty sad record for these American geniuses to put out, and it doesn't stop at Seth Siro Anton somehow managing to make their typical Egyptian-style album cover look exactly like the covers he always draws for Moonspell, Old Man's Child and Septic Flesh.
Nile are one of the best bands in the world, no question. I know that from their incredible output over six studio albums and seeing them in concert twice absolutely tearing things up. Unmatched in their ability to twin searing brutality with elegantly integrated Eastern musical influences, unsurpassed in their thoroughly researched lyrics and always able to inflect their winning formula with some new manifestation of creativity and technical ability. So why the fuck open your new album with a cheap rewrite of the song you used to open your last, massively sold out, critically acclaimed masterpiece? I find it offensive. And after all, this is all about me. 'Enduring the Eternal Molestation of Flame' has a main riff identical to the fast one at the start of 'Kafir!', and even continues with almost identical chugging sections. The fuck is this shit. I swear, listen to it, it sounds exactly the same. So they look like they've run out of ideas straight out of the Gates, if you will.
They've ratcheted up a bit in terms of frenetic pacing, laying off somewhat on the dense and crushing passages of blasts and grunts that were erstwhile their backbone. So there's a lot more switching tempo, scrabbling from one melody and mood to the next, chucking everything at the pyramid and seeing what sticks. These boys have never been into straightforward, easy to digest songs, but where tracks like 'Unas Slayer of the Gods' and 'Annihilation of the Wicked' compacted variously groovy, grinding and grandiose auras into one solid brick-wall of badassery, the majority of the songs here find no such cohesiveness. 'The Chaining of the Iniquitous' meanwhile is just a really boring 7 minutes of nothing much happening, despite the fact there are loud guitars playing and an admittedly fingerlickin' solo.
The boxed-in, trebly guitar sound on a track like 'The Fiends Who Come to Steal the Magick of the Deceased' actually makes the band's famous, leaping Egyptian melodies pretty irritating, especially smattered as they are with seemingly wanton randomness. The drums of Mr. Kollias might be typically proficient and impressive, but with this production and the vocals and guitars dominating everything, I don't even notice 'em. Ithyphallic sounded a bit cardboard after the onslaught of Annihilation of the Wicked, but it had its own pile-driving and meaty charm, and I enjoyed it instantly, even if it was probably down near the bottom of the list before this shit sandwich arrived.
The vocals are another niggle. Rather than the predominance of low and gurgling growls, the songs here are constantly peppered by the higher register shouts and rasps previously used only for emphasis. Which just don't connect. They're damp, they just sound like rabid ranting, and not in that good Anaal Nathrakh way. Developing vocal styles is all well and diddly, but why abandon such a satisfyingly belly-achingly brutal death style? When most of your fan base are still basically death metal heads even though you're signed to Nuclear Blast. And that's another thing, don't blame the infamous pop-metal record label for this one people, from what I've read Nile had a lot more creative freedom with the Germans than with previous companies, so any blame for this latest, messily aborted embalming ritual is squarely on them.
Songwriting, vocals, sound. Damn. Mostly though, mostly, it's just that the stabbing riffs and hammering drums on songs like 'When My Wrath is Done' (which fair do's, is a killer name for a song, like many titles here) and the sort-of title track, just don't have me headbanging with my crazy-metal-man face like so many cuts from their fantastic back catalogue. Integrated into a live set I wouldn't have much of a problem with them, considering that the production sound obviously wouldn't be a problem, but they would likely be the songs where I nipped off for a piss or to buy a beer if the time had come. What I'm hoping is that Nile albums will start working like Deep Purple albums, where one masterpiece is followed by one brainfart, rinse and repeat, so that 2014 or 2015 will bring an opus that knocks this out of the water much as We Are Those Whom the Gods Detest did with its predecessor.
Nile have been around for Anubis knows how long, and every time they put out a new album we as death metal fans always give listen and be wondered by the insane speed, the furious intensity, and the Egyptian influences, both lyrically and musically. Their previous album, Those Whom the Gods Detest, was in my top 10 albums of 2009. Songs like Kafir, 4th Arra of Dagon, and the absolutely epic title track rank among the best songs Nile has ever put out. Now three years later we're holding audience to yet another new album by the South Carolinians, and to be honest there's not a lot here that we haven't heard from this band in the past. There's a multitude of problems, from the rather shitty production to the general feeling of "been there, heard that" throughout this album. Musically the album is sufficient, but in terms of memorability I don't think I'll be switching Cast Down the Heretic off for almost any song on here anytime soon.
One of the major problems I have with At the Gate of Sethu is that there's not a whole lot of new stuff here. As mentioned, there's a big old feeling of having heard pretty much every song here before, only on much consistently better records like Annihilation of the Wicked. Here and there there'll be something that pops out and makes you go "whoa, didn't see that coming", but for the most part I've heard most of these songs before, just on different records from Nile's past. The major reason for this is that Nile are a speed based band. I'm a big fan of fast extreme metal, but Nile's way of doing it can get very old very quickly. They thankfully do have a standard Nile doom metal epic though in the form of the album closer The Chaining of the Iniquitous. Tracks like When My Wrath is Done and The Gods Who Light Up the Sky at the Gate of Sethu (yeah, almost every song title on the album is a run on sentence) start off slow and crushing, but quickly devolve back into the same monotonous hyperblasting and the same monotonous guitar tweedling. Even worse is that a few songs don't even have proper endings; they just sort of stop dead in their tracks. Case in point, I had to go back and listen to the album again before writing this review because I genuinely did not remember one thing about it aside from The Fiends Who Come to Steal the Magick of the Deceased. Hell, the tracks that stick with me the most even after another full listen are the two Egyptian music interludes, which are absolutely breathtaking. Shame there aren't more of them on here.
The other major problem I have with the album is the production. Holy fuck, this album sounds bad. The guitars do thankfully sound like guitars unlike some past records of Nile's, but they're still WAY too thin for my tastes. The drums are incredibly clicky and annoying, which is a shame because George Kollias's playing is probably the best part of the album. The bass is nonexistent, as is stupidly common in extreme metal productions today. While I applaud the production sound for not only having the guitars be audible among the musical cacophony as well as it not being compressed to hell, that's not saying much when the sound is as thin as it is. The individual musicians's performances on the record are superb, as one would expect from a band like Nile. Dallas Toller-Wade and Karl Sanders shred away on the guitars with skill and precision, and George Kollias once again shows why he's one of the best drummers in extreme metal today. It's a damn shame they couldn't write better material to compliment their skills though. The vocals on this album are, as many have pointed out on message boards and comment sections the internet over, very weird at times, and I like that. It's one of the few aspects of the album that didn't bore me to death. Both Dallas and Karl are very powerful vocalists, so you can always expect that aspect of a Nile record to be good no matter what the music is like.
Overall, this album is a giant bore. Aside from the vocals it doesn't really do much in the way of progressing Nile along the musical path. Sticking to one sound an entire career is not inherently a bad thing. Just look at Slayer and Cannibal Corpse. But whereas Cannibal Corpse has made slight variations to their sound over the years to keep listeners on their toes and attentive (and headbanging), Nile have made the same album again that they've made the last two or three times, only much less interesting than the last two or three albums before this one. And quite frankly, that to me is the sign of a band that is running out of steam. If you want some quality death metal that's been released this year, I recommend Torture by Cannibal Corpse, Global Flatline by Aborted, and the masterpiece of 2012 so far known as Monolith of Inhumanity by Cattle Decapitation. All are much more interesting than At the Gate of Sethu.