Angry Metal Guy hates this album. He hates it so much that he won’t even deign to put to paper how much he hates it; and thus has commanded me to do so in his stead. Given how bad At The Gate of Sethu was, I was sure it wouldn’t be difficult to do so but was nonetheless displeased. I was all for skipping What Should not be Unearthed, and going on my merry way pretending Nile broke up four years ago, but sometimes you bite ass, and sometimes your ass gets bit. After spending a few days in the crypts with this album, a few things have become clear: it’s still the Nile you know and probably have some sort of strong feeling for. The chromatic riffing, incessant double bass pounding, and ham-fistedly (or perhaps mouthedly) delivered lyrics about gods and pyramids and the afterlife and what have you all align; What Should not be Unearthed is anything but groundbreaking. But the band have cut back on the self-plagiarism and boring brutality that undermined the previous album and paid more attention to elements of their sound that set them apart from other bands.
This is the part of the review where I’d go about discussing the first few or strongest songs of the album. Sadly, I instead get to tell you that, much like the last Nile album, Unearthed is pretty barren of highs and lows. There’s really no killer single or flaming bag in the mix, just fifty minutes of guitar picks and George Kollias’ feet moving really fast, though rarely in unison.
What set Nile apart from their contemporaries (and the countless bands that somehow want to swipe their riffs) are their unmetered passages. Since Kollias can keep 64th notes coming with little punctuation for quite some time, the rest of the band, and by that I mean mostly Karl Sanders, are free to tremolo and riff abstractly for a while. At best, these are brief and work like an extended, full-band drum fill; they reels and pitch for a moment before locking back into a groove. There are a few of these full-band passages scattered across Unearthed and they’re actually pulled off pretty well, but far more frequent are moments when the guitars, drums, or most often, vocals slip past the others. The fluid feeling of this slip pairs excellently with Nile‘s style of riffing and drumming, and it’s well-capitalized on in songs like “Age of Famine” and “To Walk Forth From Flames Unscathed.”
The problems arise when the songs aren’t spilling over themselves; the best days of Nile riffing seem to be behind us, and though there are a few good cuts in the album – like on “Evil To Cast Out Evil,” after a minute or so even that song loses its way, and even its cool bridge is too little, too late for the album. What Should Not Be Unearthed feels like a supercut of the mid-quality parts of previous Nile albums interspersed with the occasional tumbling, uncoordinated moment of intrigue. Add that to its typical production – little to no bass presence, shitty-sounding cymbals, and vocals that have never been top of the class, and you get an underwhelming piece of music.
I’d really love to hear another Nile album as good as Ithyphallic or Those Whom the Gods Detest or even a song half as good as “Lashed to the Slave Stick,” but between this and George Kollias‘ equally average release earlier this year, it looks like fans will have to sit through this uninspired, natron-stiffened version of Nile for a few more years. While I’m sure the band needed to write new material to make sure they weren’t dead, I’d have preferred this album stayed in the ground.