Review Summary: An imperfect but critical release for these now death metal giants.2 of 2 thought this review was well written
Unbeknownst to mainstream music, but with a name that resonates distinctly within the underground technical death metal scene, few bands can claim to have a more instantly recognisable signature sound than Nile. To anybody familiar with death metal, uttering the word “Nile” won’t invoke a mental image of Egypt’s famous river, but of a wall of guitar notes meshed together by a thick although indecipherable bassline, eerie middle-eastern melodies and otherworldly low vocals. As such, Nile’s position as one of the top death metal acts today is as undisputable as their influences are unconventional and their music is unmistakable.
Most people will point to either Those Whom the Gods Detest
or Annihilation of The Wicked
when talking about Nile’s supposed “essential” releases. Granted, these two albums are arguably some of the finest tech-death releases of the 21st century, but they’re the products of a formula that’s been methodically refined and polished, and is still being tinkered with today. The aforementioned albums weren’t necessarily revolutionary or ground breaking in any sense, and so if somebody were to ask me what the “essential” Nile release was, I’d tell them to look no further than Black Seeds of Vengeance
Although there was still much to come from Nile at the turn of the new millennium, Black Seeds of Vengeance
represented Nile’s transition from a deathgrind band with a few Egyptian-sounding melodic interludes thrown into their debut, to a fully-fledged Egyptian-themed technical death metal quartet. “Catacombs” was a very good release, but had Nile persisted with that sound, they would have merely blended with the slew of very talented, but ultimately unrecognisable bands doing largely the same thing. On their 2000 release, Nile set out to distinguish themselves by taking the Egyptian interludes of “Catacombs” and blending it seamlessly with their onslaughts of brutality.
The album begins in about the same way as “Catacombs”, with Egyptian acoustic instrumentals followed 40 seconds later by tremolo riffing and demonic vocals in the form of the title track. However, unlike your typical death metal release, it becomes obvious that these guys aren’t just focussed on sheer brutality. There’s a hefty amount of middle-eastern sounding melody to be found in the guitar tracks, and this dedication to all things Ancient-Egyptian is turned up and notch when Dallas Toller-Wade lets out a bellowing roar, only to be followed ominously by spine-tingling choir vocals and a cymbal that sounds as if it was flown directly from an Ancient-Egyptian museum exhibit. The music is haunting to say the very least, and it’s executed even more superbly on the third track Defiling The Gates of Ishtar.
If you manage to survive until the amusingly named sixth track, Masturbating The War God
, a pattern begins to emerge. These guys enjoy pummelling you relentlessly for the first third of a song, before wreaking havoc with a chaotic solo, usually followed by an “epic” choral finale. This sometimes manages to kill any sort of suspense or anticipation you would otherwise have had in their later, better written releases, as almost every song follows the same brutal-chaotic-epic structure.
Nevertheless, despite the sometimes predictable nature of the record, there is much to enjoy besides the song writing. I’ve noted several times before that these guys sound properly brutal, with this album having perhaps the thickest production of any Nile release. The audibility of individual instruments as well as the lyrics does suffer as a result, but it works in creating an eerie and thoroughly unsettling atmosphere. This atmosphere is no more perfectly concocted than in the 9-minute To Dream of Ur.
This type of song would go on to become a mainstay in Nile’s future releases, which is but a further reason for why Black Seeds of Vengeance
– containing the first inclusion of a signature Nile “epic” – is one of the essential Nile albums.
The riffs that can be deciphered are air-tight in their execution, with melancholically intertwined, complex guitar rhythms as well as slow, lingering chords which provide a base on which the Egyptian acoustics built upon. Despite not holding a candle to Nile’s current drummer George Kollias, Derek Roddy does an excellent job behind the kit. He can’t play as fast or as hard, but his fills are sometimes more natural, and therefore more interesting, but it does mean that the album lacks that element of brutality that’s become so essential in Nile’s later albums.
Black Seeds of Vengeance may not be Nile’s magnum opus or even an above average release in comparison to the rest of their catalogue, but the path it set for the rest of the albums to follow is critical to why Nile is now such a renowned and respected name in modern death metal. By blending two seemingly incompatible styles of music from entirely different cultures, these guys took an atypical concept and made it work, and it’s still paying dividends twelve years later.
Defiling The Gates of Ishtar
Masturbating The War God
To Dream of Ur