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Crossing the River to Conquer More Desert Realms - 100%

Five_Nails, January 2nd, 2010

After a good few years as a Nile listener, fan, and reviewer, I know the expectation implied from the proposition of a new album from these death metal masters will reflect not only Karl Sanders’ encyclopedic knowledge of ancient Egyptian culture, some of the fastest and most emotionally driven drumming from George Kollias, very down to earth technical and brutal guitar playing from Sanders and Toler-Wade, shrieking and wailing solos with that small high-pitched wailing, twanging twinge of Egyptian influenced original death metal sound, and a gruesome mixture of gurgling gutturals, low growls, and clean screams from Sanders and Toler-Wade. Though near perfect quality was already expected, astonishingly technical musicianship was already required, and experimentation with different cultural, ambient, and aesthetic sounds was already in demand, it seemed as though Sanders was nowhere near running out of gruesome scenes for his ancient Egyptian and Lovecraft inspired lyrical forays into the darkest parts of the human psyche. Nile could have made not only another passable album but another stunning masterpiece in the vein of the four year old “Annihilation of the Wicked”, but Karl Sanders chose to change things up with “Those Whom the Gods Detest”. Left over from his ambient project of the same name, Karl Sanders instead chose to use many Eastern instruments and recordings that did not make it onto “Saurian Meditation”, “Saurian Exorcisms”, or any previous Nile albums, and instead wrote some very intense and very experimental songs on the subjects of not only Egypt, but many eastern religions, cultures, and even went so far as to attack a major modern eastern religion through his music.

Beginning the album with that attack, the opening track “Kafir!” refers to the viciously independent people of Kafiristan who defied thousands of years of invasions, Alexander the Great’s massive armies, and fought the spread of Islam from a small province in Afghanistan. The song explodes with the first prayer a Muslim child hears after birth which is then cut down by battle cries proclaiming, “there is no god, there is no god, there is no god” throughout the chorus of the song bringing forth a description of a society nearly erased from history by the Muslims. This song is the cry of an ancient culture attempting to rise and gain the importance and respect it deserves, but because this small provincial people were finally conquered by 1895, this province, like all conquered civilizations throughout history, doesn’t get the acknowledgement it is due. The song itself is just another stop on the “OH MY FUCKING SATAN” train that is Nile’s music. Winding through mountains of snare, cymbal, and double bass blasts and limitless forests of riffs, every element of the song flies by at a pace that is made comprehensible by the notion of the fierce and vast conflict between two cultures covering miles of blood soaked desert that “Kafir!” represents. “Kafir!” is the perfect opening track for this Nile album as it both instantly expands the scope of Nile’s focus and immediately confronts and attacks the biggest kid on the block (Middle Eastern Islam) to gain supremacy over his domain. Since attacking religion today isn’t as ballsy as it was ten to fifteen years ago, Sanders instead strives for a more intelligent focus for his attack. This delivery, even with such a straightforward chant as “there is no god” is still as precise as a daisy cutter into a cave. With this start, Nile sets the stage for what can only become their greatest album so far.

Since nearly every song (and Sanders’ liner notes for every song), is just as epic as the first, I will try to keep this review as encompassing as possible, but some songs deserve deeper examination.

As stated above, George Kollias’ godlike drumming is increasingly becoming the focal point of Nile’s music. The intrigue of this Greek percussionist who first appeared with the band on “Annihilation of the Wicked” never ceases to amaze when he drops a double bass blast like in the first seconds of “Hittite Dung Incantation”, when he rolls the entire kit along the guitar riffs in “Those Whom the Gods Detest”, or drives an entire song with ankle, shin, and femur-shattering double bass like in “4th Arra of Dagon”. Kollias throws every bit of himself into his drumming and brings one of the most impassioned and organic death metal thunders that I’ve heard in a long time to the mix of Nile’s sound. The production is top notch for all the instruments on the album, but especially accurate in the sound of the drums as each instrument of the kit comes in with utmost clarity and precision. For fear of jinxing this drummer’s career and astonishing ability (and because I’m going to see Nile soon), I’m not going to say he’s perfect yet, but Kollias is definitely one of the best percussionist’s I’ve ever heard and delivers such a regal sound to the overall epic approach of Nile’s music that his addition to the band has given them almost limitless potential.

The title track of this album is a masterpiece to say the least. It seems Sanders outdoes himself with just every title track. “Those Whom the Gods Detest” stands out amongst the title tracks in the annals of Nile’s discography for a few reasons. First, the soloing section at around 5:00 is blistering with sections reminiscent of “Sacrifice to Sebek” in their “Annihilation of the Wicked” album. Though the elongated solo could be a lost section from the, “Annihilation of the Wicked” demo tapes, it is still very original and has a different tonal flavor focusing more on the higher end of the guitar riffs that give the song it’s very eastern feel rather than the pummeling bass and drum sounds. Though this album has a slight preoccupation incorporating different eastern ambient mixes into the overall landscape of the music, George Kollias’ drumming shows a considerable amount of focus on the elements that made Nile the death metal powerhouse they began as while Sanders and Toler-Wade bridge the gap between the two different styles in their guitar work. From the very eclectic opening employing solely eastern instruments and eastern sounding vocals to the boisterous explosion of riffs and the persistent butchery of the skins, “Those Whom the Gods Detest” demonstrates the prominence of Nile’s musical expertise and the drive of the band’s thematic focus.

Sanders and Toler-Wade play some amazing guitar in this album. Songs like “Kafir!”, “Permitting the Noble Dead to Descend to the Underworld”, and “Iskander Dhul Karnon” feature intense paced riffs that bring both a maelstrom of sound and a blistering dynamic that Sanders, Toler-Wade, and a few guests exemplify with their vocals. Every element of the music blends well into the rest of the mix and balances well enough that the instruments that take center stage don’t hurt the performances of the other instruments. In all, this quality production has helped Nile advance their music to another height of power as their riffs have become even more complex, dynamic, and intricate on their own but gain another dimension as Kollias’ drumming, the vocals, and different ambient sounds and eastern instruments breathe life into the guitar sections.

To accompany this magnanimous offering, Sanders has written another encyclopedia of liner notes giving not only an insight to the different foci of each song, but an insight into different cultures vastly alien to Nile’s mainly North American and European audiences. Like his past sets of liner notes, Sanders ensures that none of his musical themes are recycled and yet again expands the scope of Nile’s direction to cover thousands of years of Middle Eastern, East African, and Arabian history, mythology, culture, and tradition. Reciprocating the regal approach of Kollias’ drumming, Sanders has ensured to his fans that this album is a great undertaking and the result of much hard effort toward a focused goal.

Sanders, Toler-Wade, and Kollias have unleashed a masterpiece with “Those Whom the Gods Detest”, an album I can only call their magnum opus. It’s hard to compare an album like this, which has advanced above the focus of ancient Egypt that was taken previously up to “Ithyphallic”, with Nile’s past albums because Nile sounds like an evolved form of themselves. Rather than their “In the Darkened Shrines”, “Annihilation of the Wicked”, and “Ithyphallic” era, they seem to be coming into a new era in their music, and it’s just as astonishing as the previous.

Nile has surpassed the old expectations of their music and expanded their viewpoint. Nile has evolved and challenged their own ability, and they have now become an even stronger death metal powerhouse. If this were their last album, I would be content with Nile’s career, but because there is no sign of Nile calling it quits, it seems that we are witnessing just another remarkable chapter in the epic book of Nile.