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Nile at the Grove, Anaheim - live review

Egypt-obsessed death metallers go with the flow

A photograph of Nile playing live

It’s not just politics that makes strange bedfellows, as tonight’s Overkill-headlined tour package proves. But while Egyptian-themed technical death metal and meat’n’potatoes thrash might seem like a pretty bizarre double bill on paper, the pairing works surprisingly well, although their supporting role unfortunately limits the South Carolina veterans to an eight-song set.

They make the best of it, however, with a performance reassuring anyone who was shaken by the recent departure of longtime guitarist/vocalist Dallas Toler-Wade that it would take an act of Ra to slow Nile’s current. New addition Brian Kingsland (Enthean) wastes no time impressing, sharing vocals on opener Sacrifice Unto Sebek with bassist Brad Parris and founding member – and perennial camouflage shorts enthusiast – Karl Sanders. The militaristic precision on display makes it hard to believe that tonight is only the new lineup’s 10th show together.

The jovial Sanders leads a chant of “Fuck yes!” prior to Defiling The Gates Of Ishtar, which sees him deliver a haunting twin lead with Kingsland while Parris windmills at centre stage. Meanwhile, drummer George Kollias – whose imposing kit is perhaps best described as Portnoy-ian – somehow manages to combine the speed of a sprinter with the endurance of a long-distance runner. The group is arguably at its best during Kafir!, when crushing riffs and a hypnotic battlecry of ‘There is no god!’ combine for maximum primal impact. As the band headbangs in sync, it’s clear that they feel its power as well. From there, Sanders acknowledges his mum in the crowd (“Everybody give it up for my metal mother!”) before dedicating Hittite Dung Incantation to her. Only in death metal can a song about smeared canine faeces seem endearing.

This tour marks the live debut of 2012’s The Fiends Who Come To Steal The Magick Of The Deceased, a frenetic whirlwind that sees Sanders and Parris trade fist-bumps mid- song. It’s a sharp contrast to In The Name Of Amun, which temporarily slows to showcase a chunky, curl-your-upper-lip groove. Sarcophagus features nightmarishly low guttural growls delivered by Sanders, who dedicates the song to MMA fighter Josh Barnett. As the band unleashes a final display of stop-on-a-dime precision during Black Seeds Of Vengeance, Barnett joins them onstage to provide backing vocals – a fitting end to a knockout performance.