Epic-of-scope technical brutality

Karl Sanders has two obsessions and on Nile’s latest album they both come together just a little differently than before.

At the Gate of Sethu sees the South Carolina trio tweaking their signature style but have no fear: this is no crazy Illud Divinum Insanus-like total make-over disaster. This is essentially the epic-of-scope technical brutality with which death metal audiences have become very familiar but with some minor modifications.

The first is the length of the songs. Nile has done shorter tracks before of course, but this is the first time since Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka where no song runs longer than the closing number’s 7:05 and most of the rest clock in at under five minutes. This move engenders a certain feeling of immediacy that some of the previous albums with their elaborate over-extensions have lacked, and yet all the technical aspects are still in place, so it’s not that Nile has dumbed down their approach – they’ve merely focused it. The sludgy tone and furious pace of the guitar attack is all over this, and album highlight “The Gods Who Light Up the Sky at the Gate of Sethu” crams in all kinds of catchy riffs. “The Inevitable Degradation of Flesh” is a similar inferno of hyperblasting and stop/start guitar insanity. The instrumental interludes “Slaves of Xul” and “Ethno-Musicological Cannibalisms” are nothing short of brilliant, adding that spice to the mix that Nile always brings to the table, and the formidable, machine-like time-keeping of George Kollias shines in “Natural Liberation of Fear Through the Ritual Deception of Death”, a track that takes its lyrical content from Tibetan mythology by way of another slight twist in the proceedings.

While the songs may be shorter, there isn’t that much of a difference musically to what Nile has been doing for the last fifteen years. In the vocal department however, things really have changed. In the past, Nile’s vocals have been the least impressive aspect of their music, running the gamut between tomb-throated growl and bowel-churning grunt. Here, however, Sanders and Dallas Toller-Wade combine those with all kinds of shouts, roars, barks and screams. Like kids with a new toy, now and then it sounds like they’re varying the vocals just for the sake of it, but overall it adds a new element to a band that has become otherwise fairly predictable. This isn’t Nile’s best album but, like all their work, it is another consistently strong one and while the oddly-used vocal changes do become a little tiresome at times it’s nice to see they aren’t quite out of ideas just yet.

1. Enduring the Eternal Molestation of the Flame
2. The Fiends Who Came to Steal the Magick of the Deceased
3. The Inevitable Degradation of the Flesh
4. When My Wrath is Done
5. Slaves of Xul
6. The Gods Who Light Up the Sky at the Gate of Sethu
7. Natural Liberation of Fear Through the Ritual Deception of Death
8. Ethno-Musicological Cannibalism
9. Tribunal of the Dead
10. Supreme Humanism of Megalomania
11. The Chaining of the Iniquitous