Style: Technical Death Metal
Release Date: 1 Nov 2019
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In search of something decidedly heavy after the decidedly subdued new Quiet Riot album, here's album number nine from Nile, my very favourite Egyptology-obsessed technical death metal band. I've mentioned a few times how I prefer melodic death to brutal death but I dig Nile a lot. I think it's because the music they play is similar to the manuscripts they turn into lyrics, in that they're an eye catching mystery. I often find myself caught up in the whirl of their songs without much of a clue what's going on but somehow liking the experience anyway.
They're at their best for me when they're furious, which is fortunately most of the time. They slow down a lot on the opener, but the second song is wild and frantic from moment one. Just check out the start of The Oxford Handbook of Savage Genocidal Warfare and buckle in for a frenetic ride. The breakdown a couple of minutes in when they slow down to a crawl but quickly ramp back up to regular speed is absolutely glorious.
I should add that that's not a particularly unusual title for Nile. This is the band who, honest to Ra, released a single called Papyrus Containing the Spell to Preserve Its Possessor Against Attacks from He Who is in the Water. It was pretty damn good too. Maybe we should require them to stick to songs with insane titles because they're usually the best ones. Of course, naming a track Snake Pit Mating Frenzy is an exception to the length rule. How can that possibly be bad? Answer: it can't and its guitar runs are as sinuous and dangerous as they ought to be.
There are other reasons why I like Nile, but a lot of it is the complexity that dominates their songs. They speed up and slow down so much that it's an impossible task to figure out the rhythms. Listen to Seven Horns of War and throw out all your youthful dreams of becoming a drummer. It isn't just that George Kollias can play that fast, it's that he can switch tempos every time you snap your fingers. Sometimes I focus on his drums on Nile albums the way I do Neil Peart's on classic Rush songs.
One of those other reasons is that I like their vocal versatility. While all the singers deliver in a harsh death growl, they do so at different pitches and many songs are really duets that see them pass the vocal back and forth. Add in different styles like what sounds like a satanic choir on That Which is Forbidden and Nile become the textbook on how to deliver in brutal death style without boring us with vocals.
Another is the variety that extends to other aspects of their music.
It's there in the choice of instrumentation. Were those trombones on Seven Horns of War? I know that's a frickin' huge bell on a bunch of tracks. Main man Karl Sanders has been credited before with instruments I've had to look up, such as bağlama; I don't seeing any such credits this time out but the instrumental called Thus Sayeth the Parasites of the Mind is certainly not played on anything you can buy at Walmart. It serves as a fantastic ethnic introduction to the musical haboob, Where is the Wrathful Sky, which has an array of middle Eastern instrumentation under its guitar riff.
It's also in knowing how long the songs should be. The eleven on offer here range from just over a minute and a half to close to nine. Those in between vary wildly because none of them are interested in outstaying their welcome. If a song's done in two minutes, then it's done. If it needs eight to do its thing, then it'll have eight. That one's The Imperishable Stars are Sickened and it's the slowest and heaviest song on the album.
And, of course, they kick ass. I usually turn to thrash metal when I need to clean out my system, but Nile fit that need too. Snake Pit Mating Frenzy or Where is the Wrathful Sky would play well after anything from Reign in Blood for a double bill guaranteed to curbstomp your previous mood. Then throw on The Imperishable Stars are Sickened and you'll forget who you are. I'll visit you in the asylum.
It's been a few years since I've seen Nile live but they're touring again to support this album and I should get them firmly onto the calendar. They're already my favourite brutal death metal band and they keep on delivering of late. This is the best album they've done in quite a while.