Review Summary: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
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 its drawbacks. As a squad of exceptionally 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 Nile’s yardstick now, “At The Gates of Sethu” faces an uphill struggle 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 listener first is immersed by the sound of crackling fire, indecipherable whispers, blood-curdling screams and Nile’s ever prevalent middle-eastern melodies before briefly fading away into obscurity. 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 a petrifying vocal duo from Sanders and Toler-Wade. For the first three tracks, these guys are relentless in their pursuit of sheer brutality, not letting up for fourteen and half minutes, leaving you in a state of delirium. “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.
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 testament to Nile’s technical abilities as well as their song writing. 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. But despite all the technical flair, it can’t compensate for some rather glaring flaws, the production is the most obvious one. On previous albums you were immersed in a wall of riffs and insane drumming, but here, (for the sake of clarity I assume?) the guitar tone is incredibly thin. While the riffs and drum patterns are now more decipherable than ever, the watered down sound engineering does take a lot of bite out of the would be stronger moments on this album.
Strangely, this album also entirely lacks Nile’s signature 8+ minute epics like we are usually accustomed to. The longest track on the album is the closer which clocks in at a relatively puny 7 minutes and 5 seconds, the second longest track doesn’t even top 6 minutes for that matter. 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 the album could ultimately have done without.
Regardless, “At The Gates of Sethu” is another jewel in Nile’s crown. 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 that Nile are still a formidable force in the field of tech-death, nearly 20 years after their inception.
3 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