Review Summary: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.4 of 4 thought this review was well written
For over a decade now, Nile have been pushing the limits of their very own, distinctly inimitable sound. While the sheer quality of their discography demonstrates that may not be a bad thing, when you consider that their latest offering is essentially “In Their Darkened Shrines pt.5”, you begin to wonder how much a band can extract from a particular formula before it becomes redundant. What the band does lack in variety, it more than makes up for in terms of quality, and this too has it’s drawbacks. As a squad of spellbindingly skilled musicians stuck in an artistic rut, they’re required to set the bar so high for themselves that topping their previous efforts seems like an almost insurmountable task. With their monolithic 2009 offering “Those Whom The God’s Detest” considered by many to be the yardstick now, “At The Gates of Sethu” faces an immensely difficult task to stand on its own as another worthwhile inclusion to Nile’s catalogue.
But despite the weight of the death metal world on their shoulders, Nile have still produced a top notch album, filled with blistering riffs, pummelling blast beats and otherworldly brutal vocals. The album starts off with “Enduring the Eternal Molestation of Flame” in a similar fashion to the previous album, an assortment of tension building noises. In this case the listener is immersed in the sound of crackling fire, indecipherable whispers, blood-curdling screams and Nile’s ever prevalent middle-eastern melodies before briefly fading away into obscurity. Even the uninitiated could tell Nile are a well-seasoned quartet because they know exactly how to set the mood, for these guys, suckering the listener in is like shooting fish in a barrel.
Knowing their tried-and-true formula inside-and-out, Nile set the tempo to 240bpm and proceed to batter the now mesmerised listener with a vicious assault of tremolo riffs, double-kick drums and some of Karl Sanders best vocal work to date. For the first three tracks, these guys are relentless in their execution of sheer brutality, not letting up for fourteen and half minutes leaving you in a state of almost delirious appreciation of their talent and technical skill. “When My Wrath is Done” is notably slower than the first few songs, allowing a little breather and making sure that the songs don’t begin to blur into a 47 minute onslaught of aural thrashings. When I say “little breather”, I really mean “little” though, not long after you’re confronted with a breath-taking, almost chaotic guitar solo, one of many solos throughout the album that will surely leave even the most technically gifted guitarists in awe.
Listening on, you’re greeted with a 1 minute transitional piece in “Slaves of Xul”. This song serves the sole purpose of building the tension for the title track, “The Gods Who Light Up The Sky At The Gate of Sethu”, without doubt the highlight of the album. Silly name aside, the title track is a spectacular testament to Nile’s technical abilities as well as their song writing, featuring multiple tempo shifts, creative and genuinely catchy riffs, brilliant drumming by George Kollias, Sanders at his best as well as another outstanding solo. The next ludicrously named track continues the savagery before another transitional piece leads you into the final three songs, ending on the fat sounding horns of the 7 minute closer, “The Chaining of the Iniquitous”, thus concluding another excellent album to add to Nile’s ever growing collection of death metal ingenuity.
This album isn’t without flaws, however. Much like in “Those Whom The God’s Detest”, the production, particularly on the guitars is top notch, but still a little below the level of crispness we’re becoming used to in a lot of modern death metal releases. The same story applies to the drums, which sound a little muffled but are still clearly decipherable. The production does give the album a satisfyingly eerie sound, and perhaps Nile themselves prefer the slight abrasiveness of the guitars, but in my unqualified opinion, the album could benefit from better production.
Strangely, this album also entirely lacks Nile’s signature 8-9 minute epics like we are used to seeing from them. The longest track on the album is the closer which clocks in at a relatively puny 7 minutes and 5 seconds and the second longest track doesn’t even top 6 minutes. Whether this is Nile listening to the polarised opinions on their longer, some would say “boring” tracks, I don’t know. All I know is some of the longer and slower songs on their previous albums did well in adding variety to their music and certainly worked better than scattering a few 80 second transitional pieces around which I believed this album could have done without.
Regardless, “At The Gates of Sethu” is another jewel in Nile’s gleamingly encrusted crown. Karl Sanders has come out with perhaps his best vocal performance yet, with much greater variation in his delivery than previous releases. George Kollias continues to impress on the drum kit and Karl and Dallas still wield their guitars with surgical precision. While “At The Gate of Sethu” doesn’t soar to the heights that “Annihilation of The Wicked” or “Those Whom The God’s Detest” did, it none the less towers over many of the genre’s best and demonstrates conclusively that Nile are still a formidable force in the field of tech-death, nearly 20 years after their inception.
4 stars out of 5.
Enduring the Eternal Molestation of Flame
The Inevitable Degradation of Flesh
The God’s Who Light Up The Sky At The Gate of Sethu
The Chaining of The Iniquitous