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Chapter for transforming into a death metal fan - 89%

Smyrma, March 5th, 2013

In the interest of full disclosure, I must first admit that Nile’s Black Seeds of Vengeance is the first death metal album I ever heard. Back in the halcyon days of the autumn of 2000, I’d been listening to lots of Slipknot and Coal Chamber when an internet message board suggestion led me to buy a copy of this record without hearing a note of it beforehand. The title track exposed me to the first blast beat I’d ever heard, the most intense growls I’d ever heard, the most technical and by far the most brutal music I’d ever been exposed to in my young life.

I’ve heard lots more death metal of all varieties in the twelve years that have passed since then, but Black Seeds impresses me to this day. It still sounds fast, brutal, and technical, and Nile has a nicely developed sense of catchiness that took me several years to appreciate. Karl Sanders’ and Dallas Toler-Wade’s riffs are memorable and sometimes even hummable, even when they’re quite complex. The guitar and bass tracks on standout songs like “Masturbating the War God” and “Multitude of Foes” demonstrate a dedication to the craft of writing metal riffs that's hard to find in the world of knockoffs and also-rans. Writing riffs that are both technical and catchy is a difficult tightrope to walk, and Nile does it well.

Pete Hammoura's drum performance is similarly successful. I imagine it would impress even the most devoted subscriber to Sick Drummer Magazine, and I can assure you firsthand, it also impressed a 17-year-old kid who'd never heard the genre before. There's plenty of blasting, naturally, but Hammoura decorates his beats with creative cymbal work and tom flourishes. I love the intro to "Nas Akhu Khan She en Asbiu," where he tosses off a 10-measure fill at some ungodly BPM before beginning the blast section for the verse, and it sounds absolutely effortless.

And, of course, there’s the Egyptian shit. It's a cool approach that felt unique in 2000, and the unconventional instrumental interludes and chanting sections create an atmosphere that makes a Nile record instantly distinguishable from any other death metal band's. Yes, it's a gimmick, but it comes across as genuine and I enjoy the way the interludes break up the brutality. Back in the days of physical CDs, Karl Sanders wrote extensive liner notes and was clearly passionate about the stuff. The lyrics are aiming higher than the gore/death/Satan norms of the scene, and I appreciate the effort. Sanders', Spires', and Toler-Wade's vocal deliveries are guttural but with plenty of feeling, summoning the spirits of these poor ancient bastards who have to masturbate the war god or transform into snakes.

Black Seeds exposed me to the world of death metal, and I'm glad I had such a solid foundation when I became a fan. The album holds up nicely to this day and is one of the more focused and memorable Nile albums. Its impressive songs, passionate performances, neat lyrics, and great concept spoiled me from the start and set the bar pretty high.