Nile - At the Gate of Sethu (Nuclear Blast Records)
By: Mike Sloan
[8.5/10] If you’ve paid attention to the innumerable reviews that I’ve done for Blistering.com, you’ve probably noticed that I’m not too into the whole technical death metal routine. Most of it is just endless and mindless noodling with notes flailing all over the place with no purpose or direction. Granted, the complexities and musical dexterities of many of the über tech death bands is respected because there is some crazy shit being played, but for the most part there are never any real songs on those albums.
If you’ve being paying attention in even closer detail, you’ll also know that I always mention Atheist, Cryptopsy, Nile, and Death as the forerunners of the technical death metal genre and that they are the only four bands who really know what the hell they’re doing. These four bands can write some of the best songs known to mankind yet beget some of the most mind-boggling, dizzying, complex song structures ever heard. Per the norm when considering my opinion, if you’re a band that is not named one of those four (for the record, Origin actually joined that bunch with last year’s awesome Entity), then that means you probably don’t know how to take your inhuman technical prowess and manifest something memorable. Sorry; that’s just how it is.
In any event, a new Nile album is just around the corner and it’s safe to say Karl Sanders and crew have done it again. The South Carolina veterans haven’t strayed too far off their own beaten path with At the Gate of Sethu, their seventh full-length album. In keeping with tradition, the album is overflowing with blast beats, double bass, wild guitar solos, and frantic fretwork. Everything that has made Nile such a staple in the metal world for almost 15 years is here in spades; At the Gate of Sethu fits perfectly betwixt such classics as Annihilation of the Wicked, Black Seeds of Vengeance and Those Whom the Gods Detest.
The album opens with the typical haunting keyboards, which bleed sickeningly into the proper portion of “Enduring the Eternal Molestation of Flame.” It’s a classic Nile album opener, one that mirrors such gems as “The Blessed Dead” and “Cast Down the Heretic.” From there, Nile pulverizes everything in their path as they unload a carpet bombing of “The Fiends Who Come to Steal the Magick of the Deceased,” “The Inevitable Degradation of Flesh,” “When My Wrath is Done” and “Slaves of Xul.”
It’s destructive business as usual until Nile unleash “The Gods Who Light Up the Sky at the Gate of Sethu,” hands down the highlight of the album. With its quasi thrashy opening chords that lead into the ultra crushing and savage middle part all the way until the final 45 seconds or so where Sanders and Toler-Wade reel off some of their simplest, yet deadliest riffs to date, it’s one of the catchiest songs in the band’s history.
At the Gates of Sethu continues with five more songs that fall in line with the rest of the album, with the rest of their entire back catalogue. There isn’t a hint of weakness on the album and thankfully they have retained the eerie, haunting atmosphere they’ve patented years ago. It’s a classic Nile album through and through, though there are a few minuscule gripes.
For one, the kick drums are a bit too quite and sound rather tinny in the final mix; luckily the rest of the drums are audible and have enough meat not to sound distant and sterile. While they aren’t anywhere near as evanescent as on the dreadful-sounding (drum-wise) Ithyphallic, they still could have been produced with a more monstrous, thunderous sound. Another minor gripe is how the album ends; the roaring war music that follows the ending chords of “The Chaining of the Iniquitous” sounds forced and ends abruptly. It just sounds misplaced or tacked on, something Nile has never done in their existence.
Still, At the Gate of Sethu is a beast that needs to be scooped up as soon as it’s released. Fans of Nile will not be disappointed in the least because they’ve retained everything they’ve become famous for and they’ve added a few wrinkles along the way. It’s not the masterpiece that In Their Darkened Shrines is or, to a lesser degree, the aforementioned Annihilation of the Wicked, but it’s still a blockbuster of sorts and it’s easily one of the best albums of 2012.