Nile: What Should Not Be Unearthed

Cairo-practitioners return to a majestic scale

TODO alt text

Nile haven’t been quite on their best run of form.

Their last album, At The Gates Of Sethu, was forgettable, while prior to that, Those Whom The Gods Detest had a few killer songs (opener Kafir! in particular) but much of the album slid past with insufficient drama. So What Should Not Be Unearthed is a pleasant surprise – of the brutal, evil variety, obviously.

Nile’s advantage over most of their tech-death peers has always been their thick, Egypt-inspired atmosphere. While everyone and their dog seems to be able to play the shit out of their guitar these days (in part thanks to Pro Tools), bands able to craft vivid, evocative atmospheres in death metal generally are far less common, especially so at the technical end.

So that …Unearthed has a powerful feel of dusty, brutal majesty is no revelation, but that it is as palpable as it is here is a serious component of its power. There are two other major factors at work in its success. One is the raw groove that makes you move while your head wraps itself around the intricacies and ferocious pace of the whole thing, opener Call To Destruction ripping into life with the kind of technical groove you can imagine a young Decapitated losing their shit to. The other factor is that the songwriting focus is much, much stronger. Songs are comparatively short (the title track is the longest at less than seven minutes) and bursting with ideas, with none overly complex or overused.

The consequence is that both the initial impact is greater, and you remember songs better after. Added to this, Karl Sanders and Dallas Toler-Wade have their most infectiously vicious set of riffs (the title track and closer To Walk Forth From Flames Unscathed especially) and leads (most obviously the menacing refrain in Negating The Abominable Coils Of Apep) in the best part of a decade – plus Dallas’s vocals here are up there with his most articulate, emphatic recordings.

This is Nile at their best. Incredibly proficient, but more about punching your face in with the force of an evil Pharaoh than showing off. Triumphal, gleefully wicked, full of soul and great fun.