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Nile - "At the Gate of Sethu" (CD)

Nile - "At the Gate of Sethu" CD cover image

"At the Gate of Sethu" track listing:

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

Reviewed by on August 22, 2012

"In a scene where adjectives such as 'brutal' and 'sick' have become uniform, Nile stands apart from the crowd like a pharaoh amongst slaves."

Nile once against blows away the dust of millennia to musically convey the mysticism, violence and imperial majesty of the ancient Near East. “At the Gate of Sethu” features 11 tracks that blur the line between exotic, old-world instrumentation and falcon-fingered death metal precision. Even the number this one falls in the discography—seven—has mystical connotations.

Besides Melechesh, a band with a similar approach but through different styles (thrash and black metal), no other group has successfully merged such disparate musical styles as Nile. In a scene where adjectives such as “brutal” and “sick” have become uniform, Nile stands apart from the crowd like a pharaoh amongst slaves. Although Karl Sanders and crew have continuously injected their music with at least a couple ideas, Nile has never swayed far from the formula unleashed upon the world on their first proper album “Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka.” Do not expect a major deviation with “At the Gate of Sethu.”

As stated above, Sanders has always experimented with at least one area of his music on every album. There is a certain facet of each album that distinguishes it from others. This time, we hear harmonious choirs, often juxtaposed next to abysmal death growls. They play this card around the two-minute mark of “The Fiends Who Come to Steal the Magick of the Deceased.”

The multitude of voices that comprise “At the Gate of Sethu,” (Karl Sanders, Dallas Toler-Wade, Mike Breazeale, Jason Hagan and Jon Vesano) truly paints a sonic picture throughout the album. The cries heard near the three-minute mark of “The Gods Who Light Up the Sky at the Gate of Sethu” are set low in the mix to create a disembodied voice. “Slave of Xul” features tribal percussion to set in motion a cacophony of sounds such as whipping noises, screams of agony and harsh commands.

Nile places most of their unplugged instrumentation in small parts throughout each death metal song. However, some tracks provide a visual interlude, such as the sitar-heavy “Ethno-Musicological Cannibalisms.” The death metal side of the album offers a variety of sounds. Blast beats, undecipherable death metal growls and eerie solos make an appearance just as they do any most death metal albums. The numerous changes each song presents, as well as Egyptian-type guitar harmonies, again distinguishes them from simple death metal duplicators.

Once “Enduring the Eternal Molestation of Flame” gets past the intro, the group, especially the Greek drum machine George Kollias, engages their turbo thrusts. Sanders’ fingers are a flash of movement, as he traverses one scale after another, while keeping pace with Kollias's explosive blasting and rolling changes. Of course, syncopated, chopping riffs that earn the term “brutal” are in no short supply. “When My Wrath is Done” is one of the better tracks for having this guitar style.

This review may seem akin to Mark Antony wooing Cleopatra, but “At the Gate of Sethu” is not the group’s best record. It has a thin guitar production and no matter how much the group has progressed, “Black Seeds of Vengeance” is still their finest moment. That being said, though, “At the Gate of Sethu” is one of the most visually stimulating and technically proficient albums of the year.

Highs: Nile sticks to its tried and true style, but adds fresh elements through vocal choirs.

Lows: The production strips away some of the guitar's grit.

Bottom line: "At the Gate of Sethu" will not disappoint fans of Nile.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)