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Nile - "Ithyphallic " (CD)

Nile - "Ithyphallic " CD cover image

"Ithyphallic " track listing:

1. What Can Be Safely Written (8:15)
2. As He Creates So He Destroys (4:36)
3. Ithyphallic (4:40)
4. Papyrus Containing the Spell to Preserve Its Possessor Against Attacks From He Who Is in the Water (2:57)
5. Eat of the Dead (6:29)
6. Laying Fire Upon Apep (3:25)
7. The Essential Salts (3:51)
8. The Infinity of Stone (2:04)
9. Language of the Shadows (3:30)
10. Even the Gods Must Die

Reviewed by on April 29, 2008

"The themes remain the same, as “Ithyphallic” discusses spells from the Book of the Dead, the process of mummification, the gods in aspects of fertility and war, and Lovecraftian topics."

The metal community has by and large accepted Karl Sanders as having attained his own sort of godhead during his career, which has infamously centered itself on the ancient gods of Egypt, and his latest album does nothing to detract from this image. Nile is a truly interesting entity in the metal genre, as their fascination with mythology has not caused them to explore a more conventional outlet such as black metal or folk metal, but rather seamlessly fuse traditional sound and instruments with extreme death metal.

The instrumental interludes experimented with in 2000’s “Black Seeds of Vengeance” became perfected during “In Their Darkened Shrines” two years later, as they are not accompanying metal tracks, but boldly experimenting with the incorporation of traditional Egyptian instruments. Excellent compositions like “Masturbating the War God” made way for the masterful “Unas Slayer of the Gods” and the “In Their Darkened Shrines” series.

The lyrics from earlier albums, which used to resemble poetry dedicated to the gods, or invocations to those beings, have somewhat adopted a more conventional structure, yet the writing remains as beautiful as ever. The themes remain the same, as “Ithyphallic” discusses spells from the Book of the Dead, the process of mummification, the gods in aspects of fertility and war, and Lovecraftian topics. This demonstrates a return to form after “Annihilation of the Wicked,” which assumed a more conventional metal sound.

It is interesting to note that while some of the new tracks deviate quite far away from metal, they never lose their brutality or technical precision regardless of the instrument being played. The “Ithyphallic” vocals have improved in terms of recognizability, as Sanders sounds less like Corpsegrinder and certainly more evil. Nile's ability to reach across two musical worlds and pull them together truly solidifies in this endeavor, and they begin to slip in more speed metal elements, almost weakening “The Black Seeds of Vengeance” by comparison.

In “What Can Safely Be Written,” the listener becomes quite aware that Nile is restoring some of the Egyptian atmospheric elements to their music. “As He Creates So He Destroys” shows Sanders articulating his lyrics more clearly than ever, creating an interesting breakdown towards the end of the song. Although the music follows a rapid, technical construction reminiscent of “Annihilation,” the guitars start shredding much more frequently, leading into the fantastic, energy-fueled “Papyrus,” which brings in the Egyptian influences once again, most noticeably in the chant-like chorus, which itself resembles an incantation.

Nile shifts gears down to the crunching blast beats of “Eat of the Dead,” continuing their tendency to put forth more eccentric lyrics and slow down the tracks to emphasize the mood and other elements going into the music, similar to “Lashed to the Slave Stick” of the previous album. “The Infinity of Stone” is an instrumental interlude used to further establish the atmosphere, a technique that had been avoided during the previous album. “Even The Gods Must Die” does a fantastic job of rounding out the album with a solid Middle Eastern sound and brutal singing and instrumentation.

Perhaps because of the switch to Nuclear Blast, Nile decided to work on the refinement of the vocals and setting each song to a generally faster pace. Thus, there are no more songs droning on in slow succession as they tend to do in the beginning of “In Their Darkened Shrines,” yet there are none of those jaw-dropping masterpieces from the same album. In spite of this fact, “Ithyphallic” remains a triumph in terms of overall presentation and a furthering of Nile’s brutal metal career of experimentation, as they have yet to slip into redundancy.

Highs: Remains in keeping with earlier themes, continues to produce a talented hybrid metal that places Nile among the creative leaders of current brutal metal

Lows: The sound is a bit more streamlined and older fans may miss some of the earlier instrumentals

Bottom line: Nile still reigns supreme, and this release lays the groundwork for continued experimentation with extreme mythological metal.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 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)