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Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka - * * * * 1/2

Black Seeds Of Vengeance - * * *

Amongst The Catacombs Of Nephren-Ka

My Chariot Wheels trample the Fallen
Cut to pieces before my Steeds
And laying
In their own Blood
I Crush the Skulls of the Dying
And Sever the hands of the Slain
I Ramses
Builder of Temples
Usurper of Monuments Slayer of Hittites
Bringer of War

-Ramses Bringer Of War

Damn. What the hell was that. The initial reaction after listening to the roughly 38 minutes of sonic aggression contained on this album just about sums it all up. To be honest, I have no idea who Nile is. I never heard of them until a couple weeks ago. A friend of mine dubbed their album on the B side of an Emperor tape he sent to me. I listened to the Emperor side once, Nile has been the only fucking thing in my deck for the last two weeks. The first thing I usually do with a new band is try to categorize their sound so I can make comparisons to other good bands in the genre. The sign of a really good band is when I can't do this. Such is the case with Nile. The closest you can really come to describing their sound is grindcore death war metal. They sound a bit like Morbid Angel in some places, especially some of the guitar parts, but their sound is much more low end and openly aggressive. Some of the more violent sections remind me of Napalm Death, especially with the vocals. They can also be described as war metal, in the vein of Bolt Thrower. Conceptually, this label fits them well. They have toured with Deicide and a host of other death metal veteran bands and there are also hints of a black metal influence in some of the atmospherics and use of classical instruments. Nile most likely represents the new face of grindcore, the eventual evolution and combination of the best aspects of these individual styles into a ferocious new breed of metal.

Conceptually, they are obsessed with ancient history. The darker side of ancient Egypt is represented in full force with this album. The spector of a long dead civilization is raised from it sleep and awakened in all out fucking fury when this band plays. Nile embraces the darker aspects of suffering, pestilence, and war, the things you don't see in the Disney movie version of history. There are several songs of pure atmospherics, war drums and horns, and chanting in dead languages. This really captures the essence of what Nile is about. These parts are truly frightening, recalling some of Morbid Angel's better work with atmospherics. As far as war metal goes, this is as good as it gets. The song Ramses Bringer Of War is in and of itself better than the entire last Bolt Thrower album. The guitar is crushing and dense at times, subtle and remorseful at others. The drummer is skilled at power and fucking bludgeons his drum kit on pretty much every song.

What really sold me on Nile however are the vocals. I don't know where they found this guy, but he sounds like an Egyptian demon god resurrected and pissed off at the world. While I was watching The Mummy recently, two thoughts ran constantly through my head. The first was, “This movie fucking sucks". The second was, "The mummy would make a pretty good death metal singer". The overamped acoustics of the budget movie theater came into play well when the mummy awoke and uttered this demonic guttural fucking roar which vibrated my skull. The mummy screaming was the best part of the whole movie. This singer sounds exactly like that. God damn he is pissed off. And the vocals don't just stick to guttural screams either, though there's quite a bit of that. Listen to the song Stones Of Sorrow. After a bit of instrumentals, the music changes pace to aggression, and the singer just fucking lets loose this fit of screaming. He’s not growling, he’s not doing that typical death metal low end shit, he just fucking screams at the top of his lungs. This is the type of thing that will stop you right where you stand the first time you hear it because it’s the last thing you’re expecting at that moment. The vocals switch off like that to enhance the effect a lot. They change with the music rather than just sticking to one style. This unbridled aggression also comes out on the song with the drums and chanting. The singer keys in over the drums and chants this ungodly scream repeatedly over the atmospherics of an Egyptian war march.

A band that can throw so many things into the mix usually sacrifices coherence. This is not the case here. Nile plays chaotically, but it's because that's what they are trying to do. If black metal is evolved from the darker side of classical music, then Nile is the direct descendent of some of the noise art that evolved from classical music. They rarely lock into a groove but when they do it is noticeably earth shattering in power. They prefer more to wander musically, playing fast and unpredictably. I usually don't like bands that don't play on groove and melody, but most of them don't do it because they suck and don't know any better. Nile knows exactly what it is doing. That is the difference. They play chaotically because it reflects the atmosphere of uncertainty, death, and chaos which defined the ancient world. Its all about the atmospherics. I could even take off points for a considerable amount of guitar wanking in the Slayer style solos thrown over the songs. However, I will not fault them on this because they are kept short and furious like the songs on this album. This band is great. That is all I can say. Also, Beneath Eternal Oceans Of Sand is simply the best song title I have heard this year. They are Nile. Buy this fucking album right now.

* * * * 1/2

Reviewed July, 1999

Black Seeds Of Vengeance

Abandoned by the Legions of Amun and Ra
Engulfed by the Heat of the Fire
Blood of the Impure Drips from my Weapons
Dismembered armies Rot in the Sun
Mekhi Kherit Au Aqu

-Multitude Of Foes

The problem with reviewing a record like Black Seeds Of Vengeance is that it's hard to tell exactly what the problem is with the album. All the trademark elements are still there, but it doesn't have the devastating effect of the first one. Black Seeds is still a fine record and worthy of attention from hardcore fans of Nile, but new listeners probably should be advised to buy the Catacombs album instead. I think the fundamental problem is that Nile's approach isn't as new and original this time around and it puts more emphasis on the quality of the music which unfortunately doesn't offer a whole lot of surprises. Nile's first record could have gotten by solely on concept. The ancient Egyptian angle was something that nobody had done before and it was interesting to see how they worked it into the music. This time however, you know what to expect with a Nile record and that shit doesn't catch you off guard as much anymore. It also isn't worked as intricately into the music as it was before. Black Seeds really just sounds like someone took a standard grindcore album and threw a whole bunch of Egyptian chanting and drums on top of it to fill out the weak spots.

It really feels like it is thrown in for effect this time rather than being an integral part of the band's sound. I was about to fall asleep halfway through The Masturbating War God when all of a sudden they broke into this classic Egyptian rhythm with horns and sitars and worked it back into the music, layering it back on top of the existing song and closing it out strong. That's the problem with Nile, when they aren't using the ancient civilization approach, they really are just an above average grindcore death band with way too many fucking guitar solos. The approach worked on the first record because the chaos in the music was worked into the concept so well that it seemed like it was reflective of the chaos and death of the ancient civilization they were emulating. This time the music is just fucking chaotic for no reason before they throw some Egyptian shit into the mix and make it work. When they aren't using this approach the music isn't anything to get too excited about and the weakness shows through.

That said, the title track is absolutely fucking brilliant and probably the best song Nile ever wrote. The end is especially amazing when they bring the ancient war march drums and horns in on top of a furious rhythm section with Black Seeds Of Vengeance chanted repeatedly over a brutally sick backing beat. That moment right there defines everything that is amazing about Nile. There are similar flashes of brilliance throughout the album where the band locks into a groove and brings in the Egyptian shit to work it into the music with each element feeding off the other to create something truly unique. The end of The Gates Of Ishtar comes to mind as a good example of this. Unfortunately so much of this album is just substandard grindcore that these moments of clarity are the exception to the rule. Nile is a brilliant band when they are working in their element. They are doing things that nobody has done before, they just don't do them enough on this album.

* * *

Reviewed February, 2003

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