Since my awakening of death metal in it’s varied forms over the past few months I’ve voraciously started soaking up as many bands as I can that have a distinguished reputation in the genre as I can. Nile is one such band. I had heard the name and knew of the reputation but in more picky days I couldn’t really get into them due to my incessant closed mindedness about certain types of vocals. Guttural incomprehensible growl vocals kill it for me most of the time especially when lyrics are crafted so well by some bands. What drew me back to giving Nile another chance is that I’m a sucker for bands that incorporate themes to their music and in Nile’s case it is the Egyptian mythology along with the style of music that is blended with just brutal and heavy songs. With that said I had only really been able to enjoy and appreciate some of their efforts (2002’s In their Darkened Shrines, 2007’s Ithyphallic, and 2009’s Those Whom the Gods Detest) for various reasons but I’m not going to bore you on why. Let’s just say that my appreciation for Niles work came at the right time as the latest release, At the Gate of Sethu, is about to be unleashed in a couple of weeks so I was looking forward to another great release to keep the momentum going. Or so I thought.
Just when I finally got what the buzz was about with Nile , ATGOS turned it all upside down. Their reputation had been about being one of the front runners of tech death with punishing tracks, stellar production and just a solid bundle of face melting metal with educated historical themes that would transport you to another time. What you get with ATGOS is far from that description. While the themes and sound effects are still present, the most noticeable aspects that are sorely lacking are ironically what is supposed to be Niles strong suits. The first track ‘Enduring The Eternal Molestation Of Flame’ starts off promising with typical Nile blastbeats and almost cinematic power chords and familiar growls only to start up with theatrical, melodramatic, and cheesy delivery of lyrics that I would have expected from lesser bands. While earlier I did say that guttural incomprehensible lyrics were a turn off most of the time, I’m also not a fan of croaked shouting vocals either and on Sethu there is an abundance of this. So much so that the familiar Karl Sanders growling vocal style is virtually pushed back into the background in favor of this “I’m going mad and have screamed myself hoarse’ style that just leaves me rolling my eyes. That’s just from the first track. It gets worse as the album goes along.
The second track is ‘The Fiends Who Come To Steal The Magick Of The Deceased’ and if you haven’t already heard the release of this you may or may not be in for a shock. This song continues the shouting but another problem surfaces with this album as a whole. The production is subpar. The only thing you can truly hear among everything going on in this track is the drums. Doublebass and blastbeats and high hats oh my. What is lacking is any type of real cohesive or technical riffs. Where is the tech? Such a pedestrian song compared to everything I had already heard by Nile in the past.
‘The Inevitable Degradation of the Flesh’ is a cacophonic disaster of sound for the first two minutes and then tries to make up for it by having some halfway decent soloing at the 2 minute mark then goes back to the all over the place mess that the song truly is. ‘When My Wrath is Done’ has some epic and promising spots in it most likely due to the fact I can actually hear some bass in the song but the song is too short and just screams that more could have have been done with it. ‘Slaves of Xul’ is an interlude track at 1 minute 24 seconds long and is highlighted by what I’m assuming is supposed to be creepy slave drivers speaking in a foreign tongue but actually comes off as a section of a haunted house you’d find At Universal Studios.’The Gods Who Light Up The Sky At The Gate Of Sethu’ is I’m assuming the title track because I’m observant that way but is highlighted by George Kollias drumming and more of the same schizophrenic rambling and raving vocals that is the hallmark of this album.
Really my favorite part of At the Gate of Sethu is the less then 2 minute instrumental ‘Ethno-Musicological Cannibalisms’ which employs sitars and is probably the best produced and best played song on this whole album. Look, I’m being harsh on this album and I believe I have every right to be. There is a certain level of expectation that needs to be met by certain bands and this one falls well short of that. Weak guitar tones, overpowering drums, haphazard riffs, non existent bass, and schizophrenic shouting vocals and noises is something I’d expect to hear from an unknown avant garde metal band trying to be heard. Not from what is supposed to be a world class death metal outfit like Nile. I truly believe that At the Gate of Sethu is going to be a polarizing album that people are either going to hate, be disappointed in, or come to actually love. I fall under the disappointed moniker. When you have newer bands like Allegaeon and 7 Horns 7 Eyes blowing me away with how good they are and a band like Nile sounding amateurish in comparison there is a problem. Fix it Karl, whether by remixing the instruments and redoing the vocals on this or by making the followup the kick ass album everyone expects, but fix it please. Expect release of At the Gate of Sethu on June 29th via Nuclear Blast.