At the Gate of Sethu
02 July 2012
by David Keevill
Nile’s ability to meld extreme technicality with expressive and forward-thinking metal is why the music they’ve delivered over the best part of twenty years has been consistently interesting. Yet whilst they’ve maintained such a distinctive and identifiable sound, they’ve departed very little from a musical core that has, admittedly, served them very well throughout their career. But with the death metal scene as it is today, it’s no longer enough to remain behind walls you built two decades ago, in the assumption that your legacy is safe.
Nile’s unflappable core remains as solid as a big brick thing; At the Gate of Sethu contains tight, furious passages of play that showcase angular, monstrous riffs and George Kollias’ precise drumming that has easily become Nile’s thunderous heartbeat. The dual vocals continue to service the band well, phrasing segments differently and creating a schizophrenic quality that compliments the music’s inherent severity.
Karl Sander’s devotion to Egyptology is as strong as ever, yet whilst it makes for interesting lyrical subject matter, there is little to convince listeners that Nile are anything but a straightforward death metal band; At the Gate of Sethu still provides typical atmospheric segues into Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, such as with the evocative (but by the numbers, as far as Nile are concerned) ‘Slaves of Xul’ and ‘Ethno-Musicological Cannibalism’, but these act as little more than breathing-spaces from the pace and complexity of the rest of the music. Nile retain a uniqueness not due to their homage to Anubian worship, but instead due to a continued allegiance to death metal of such a relentlessly high level of complexity and imagination.
There isn’t much that Nile do on At the Gate of Sethu that might distinguish it from their last few LPs. The tracks in general are noticeably shorter but no less epic in scope (as on the multi-faceted brilliance of ‘The Fiends Who Come To Steal The Magick Of The Deceased’), and the complexity of the music still engages on an evocative level.
At the Gate of Sethu just doesn’t feel as grand as it should, but the quality of this album still highlights the fact that few can match Nile when it comes to marrying technicality and brutality, even when they’re not giving it full-throttle. The band’s critics might be baying for Nile to change course in the fashion of their contemporaries, but when the music is this solid, why would they?
Sounds Like: 1349, Behemoth
Standout Tracks: The Fiends Who Come To Steal The Magick Of The Deceased, The Gods Who Light Up The Sky At The Gate Of Sethu