by Trevor Portz
– Columnist –
It’s been nearly 15 years since Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka hit the streets, an album that pushed South Carolina’s Egypt-obsessed Nile onto the top of the already large death metal pyramid. Since then, they’ve continued to carry the torch for technical death metal, regularly delivering superb albums and live shows. Their latest opus, At the Gate of Sethu, is not necessarily an exception, though the back-to-basics production and “more-of-the-same” riffing may be a bit musty for some fans’ ears.
Not surprisingly, the songs that make up …Sethu feature all of the Nile trademarks: high-speed, highly technical riffs, plenty of tempo changes, occasional “Egyptian-sounding” passages, and dark lyrics delivered in a variety of different vocal styles. The problem is that these trademarks make up almost the entire album; there’s little here to differentiate it from any of the previous Nile outings. That said, it’s hard to condemn a band for sticking to a solid formula, and even with the sameness of the album, it’s still a notch above many albums by bands of their ilk.
What may be most damning, however, is the darker, less polished production. While it’s nice that bands are realizing not every note and beat needs to be fixed, processed and sampled to death, the murky production here is strangely distracting. The album actually comes off feeling a bit like a compilation of demos rather than a final product, which is odd from a band with a reputation such as Nile has. But again, if the band was indeed seeking to produce a more catacomb-like listening experience, reflective of the dank tombs about which they grunt, they have succeeded.
Alas, At the Gate of Sethu may not be anything new, and may lack the sheen of previous releases, but it is still an excellent record by an excellent band. What more can you really ask for?
Genre: Death Metal
Karl Sanders (g,v,b)
Dallas Toler-Wade (g,v)
George Kollias (d)
1. Enduring the Eternal Molestation of Flame
2. The Fiends Who Come to Steal the Magick of the Deceased
3. The Inevitable Degradation of 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 Cannibalisms
9. Tribunal of the Dead
10. Supreme Humanism of Megalomania
11. The Chaining of the Iniquitous
Label: Nuclear Blast
Hardrock Haven rating: 7.7/10