Nile // At the Gate of Sethu
Rating: 2.0/5.0 — You always lose when you appease Hitler.
Label: Nuclear Blast [EU | US]
Websites: nile-catacombs.net | facebook.com/nilecatacombs
Release Dates: US: 07.03.2012 | EU: 2012.06.29
Nile should need no introduction. This Egyptian themed grindy death metal band which hails from Greensville, South Carolina have been one of the darlings of the American death metal scene since the release of their mighty Black Seeds of Vengeance in 2000 (though all the trve guys will tell you that it was their debut album that was more important and that everything since then is crap). Since 1998 they’ve produced 6 stellar full-lengths, and while each one wasn’t successively better than the last, the quality dip that one expects after a while (Angry Metal Guy’s Law of Diminishing Recordings™) never really happened. But science has a way of catching up to you, and according to an interview that I read recently, Karl Sanders made an executive decision after he watched the infamous “Hitler Reacts to the new Morbid Angel record” video. He decided that changing anything ever was a terrible idea, because Hitler would get all upset about it, which apparently led to him not changing anything about his formula even a little bit on At the Gate of Sethu despite having thought about doing something that could be imagined to be the middle-ground between the classic Nile sound and his solo record Saurian Exorcisms. Given that you’re fans of Nile, I assume you’re also fans of history and that it goes without saying what happens when people try to appease Hitler.
At the Gate of Sethu starts out precisely like Those Whom God Detests did before it. Actually, that’s kind of not even exaggeration, “Kafir!” and “Enduring the Eternal Molestation of Flame” sound remarkably similar. And as the record progresses, that’s kind of the impression that you get throughout. Everything on display on At the Gate of Sethu feels a bit like a caricature of a Nile record. The riffs are frantic, techy and endlessly running races up and down Arabic sounding scales. George Kollias’ drumming is over-the-top, immense and equally technical; pounding in tact with every riff. I’m pretty sure his feet don’t stop kicking those double-bass pedals for the record’s whole 47 minutes. Bassist/vocalist Dallas puts in his normal performance, with Dim Mak-like crazy beat poet performances that sometimes don’t even feel like they’re in time with the music. Intersperse a couple of instrumental tracks (“Slaves of Xul” and “Ethno-Musical Cannibalisms”), write lyrics about spells and Egyptian mysticism and you’ve got yourself a pretty standard Nile record.
But unlike previous records, the thrashing and grinding and pummeling simply wash away in a gray tide of noise. Every Nile record has its own thing up to this point (even Ithyphallic‘s “short and sweet” approach, which I think is great); but At the Gate of Sethu does nothing new. And if the record does have a unique sound, it’s that the band does a lot less of what I personally love about Nile. The combination of the late-90s death metal grind with almost a funeral doom approach to slow parts has always intersected with great melodic riffs that work like hooks and pull the listener into the song. And yet, while the grind parts are here—everywhere—the slow doom and groove parts—that is, the contrast in these paintings—rarely are touched. The heavy focus on grind also seems to have taken what little focus the band put on melodic riffs, which leaves At the Gate of Sethu feeling chaotic instead heavy, but also monochromatic. Hell, even the atmosphere that the band really made eternal with Black Seeds of Vengeance feels much more in the back seat.
When it comes right down to it, the only song on here I even really like is “Supreme Humanism of Meglomania.” Other than that, the record is filled with duds and tracks that leave this Angry Metal Guy unmoved. Part of this may be production. The guitar tone is a tad thin and the bass is practically inaudible most of the time. The drums are immense, however, and probably too high in the mix (on a Nile record!? Oh wait…). But mostly, I just think this record suffers from a bad batch of riffs. In Sanders’ push to appease Hitler, he forgot the lessons of history: Hitler does not get appeased. Instead, by writing a record full of flat, uninspired riffs and not thinking outside the box, he’s now angered Hitler anyway. Go read the reviews at Metal Archives—that guy is pissed. Die-hard fans should check this out as always, maybe the changes are what you want from Nile. I certainly don’t suggest the casual listener check this one out, though. Head back and start with Amongst the Catacombs of Nephran-Ka instead or Black Seeds of Vengeance, those records speak to the genius and inspiration that seem to be missing on this record.