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Ra would be pleased - 82%

DarthVenom, May 24th, 2010

Alright, credit where it’s due: Karl Sanders is probably the only songwriter who can title a song “Hittite Dung Incantation” and not have me chuckle on first hearing about it.

But that’s the special thing about Nile’s (once again well-researched) lyrics: despite the elaborately mythological, often explicitly brutal concepts they growl about, the lyrics take themselves entirely seriously, and not in a later-Cannibal Corpse way, where all that’s missing is some kind of tongue in cheek sensibility. Rather, Sanders’ way of lyric writing is from the perspective of one who so fervently believes in the brutal concepts being written about. To use an older example, the lyrics to Black Seeds Of Vengeance wouldn’t have been nearly effective if their gory aspects were played for shock value rather than as a desperate rallying cry.

That said, in any genre where the vocals are distorted so, the songwriting craft must play first fiddle to any aspect involving the vocals and lyrics. In that respect, and in the tradition of the killer Annihilation Of The Wicked, this album succeeds where the aforementioned Black Seeds did not.

The first thing to hit is the production: the wicked, deathly crunch of Kafir’s opening riff sets a tone of pitiless anger that gets carried throughout the record. That opening song will please fans like myself of Ithyphallic’s opener; though it carries a vaguely similar atmosphere, it’s a more compact listen. The drums have a less in-your-face sound than on this album’s predecessor, the quality-wise somewhat ambivalent Ithyphallic, letting the riffs and vocals steal the show. (bass? What’s a bass?)

The vocals are similar to Ithyphallic’s, in that you can probably understand most of the higher growls without the booklet, and this is a turn for the band that I prefer. But the booklet itself deserves a special look nonetheless: anyone disappointed with Ithyphallic’s lack of liner notes will be happy to know that they’re back, and just as informative, entertaining, and far lengthier than ever. Once again, they’re quite a fascinating read on their own terms.

My absolute highlight of this album is the title track: check the band’s signature reverberating acoustics, blended with the dominating riff attack and chorus bearing a strange, new quasi-clean vocal effect that manages to be downright chilling. While Nile has their hit and miss moments, here they manage to create a truly towering, imposing atmosphere.

The more compact songs – the aforementioned dung ditty, Permitting The Noble Dead etc., Utterances Of The Crawling Dead and so on, show Nile in traditional form, albeit bolstered by the production value. It seems that with the exception of the muddy Black Seeds Of Vengeance, Nile’s production improves with every release. I, for one, prefer their more sprawling work as opposed to the more compact numbers, but these aren’t bad. They flow together well, although taken separately, all but the most veteran of Nile aficionados may have difficulty telling them apart.

Karl Sanders is a musician who seems bent on pushing his songwriting and performance abilities with each successive release, and this album is a finely balanced example of brutalizing, yet distinctive modern death metal. It’s not perfect, yet it still deserves a place in the extreme metal fan’s library.