Friday, May 21, 2010

Nile - Black Seeds of Vengeance

Nile - Black Seeds of Vengeance
2000, Relapse Records

Nile have a pretty good thing going for them now: they've solidified and expanded on their original Egyptian/Pharoah-central concept, they've adjusted the underground to suit their individual style through numerous tours, and they have (with this release) fallen even deeper into the mythos that they espouse. I can not think of that many other bands that are as powerfully influenced by any one central mythology or culture the way Nile is sponsored by the Egyptian dead, and I don't think they will leave any room for bands that come after them to explore similar subjects. No, it's all going to look derivative after this album...

I haven't really heard any pre-release press about this new album, so I don't know where the rest of the underground stands in relation to it. Personally, I'm very impressed. Nile have just about upped the ante of intensity and style on all levels with 'Black Seeds of Vengeance': in terms of sound and impact, they are harder, heavier, and faster than ever - so fast in certain parts, in fact, that the whirlwind/sandstorm of their guitars and drums becomes almost a blur, a blinding, heaving holocaust spinning out of control, shriveling and shredding flesh right and left. On this album they seem to get most of the speed out of their system fairly quickly: the first few songs, including the title track, fly by like an afterthought. All that really registers is the mayhemic catchiness of the song 'Black Seeds of Vengeance' and the new ferociousness that they have brought to this art. Never has death metal sounded so inhuman, so cold and lethal. Towards the middle of the album things slow way down, and Nile injects a fair amount of doom into the proceedings - returning to their roots, you could say, their earlier sound, when they weren't so intent on grinding their audience to a pulp. This also allows the chance for some of their now-famed 'atmospherics' to take center stage, and this album is as filled with sound effects, strange instruments, and chilling otherworldly passages as the last opus. Nile succeed completely once again in being able to take you to another world and another time through their music. At the end of the proceedings we have the catchiest of all the songs on this album, 'Nas Akhu Khan she en Absiu', which brings together all the elements of their style perfectly: the lacerating speed, the morbid slow riffs, the 'ethnic' sounds, etc. Also of note is the short (much too short, in my opinion, I would have liked it to last longer) classical guitar instrumental 'Libation unto the Shades Who Lurk in the Shadows of the Temple of Anhur', which was recorded in a 'stone echo chamber' beneath the main studio where the rest of this album was set on tape, and the slow, sleepy and doom-drowned 'To Dream of Ur', which is a step in the right direction for this band, in my opinion. These songs have some of the eeriest/most effective melodies on this entire album.

Of special note are the few pages of explanatory text that the band included in the lyric booklet which detail the background, influences, literary history, melodic inspiration, and thematic detail behind each song. This makes for fairly fascinating reading, as it is obvious the band is now deeply involved in their study of Egyptian magic and history, and they are bringing ever-new subjects to light...I hope they continue this feature on their future albums.

So, to sum up, there really aren't any negative things to say about this album. Nile have expanded their lyrical and musical range, widened and deepened their own style, and opened up a whole new series of interesting questions for me about Egyptian history. This is as good an album as you are going to find these days in the death metal scene, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.