Though perhaps not requiring introduction to most readers, for the unenlightened amongst you I’ll provide a quick canter through Niles history. Rising to prominence as the popularity of traditional death metal fare waned in the late 1990’s, Nile are oft cited alongside Behemoth as one of the more influential and uncompromising bands in the genre. Unlike their Polish brethren who have streamlined their performances into something more palatable (though no less extreme) to wider audiences, Nile have adhered to their disciplined formula of breakneck technicality through corybantic explorations of the Phrygian dominant scales, punctuated with traditional eastern instruments and flavourings.
“Vile Nilotic Rites” is the bands ninth album, and the first to not feature longtime guitarist/vocalist Dallas Toler-Wade since 2000s sophomore “Black Seeds Of Vengeance”. Opener “Long Shadows Of Dread” has a short atmospheric build-up before steamrollering the listener with the frantically complex and heavy chops that we’re all familiar with, whilst bells toll in warning beneath the chaos. “Oxford Handbook Of Savage Genocidal Warfare” provides another short sharp shock, before the title track slows things down marginally, a lumbering, groove-orientated beast of a riff tailed with eastern melodic lick.
The variety of song lengths showcase that Sanders and company are still very much capable of either tearing the audience a new arse or reflecting on epic soundscapes. A song title like “Snake Pit Mating Frenzy” doesn’t exactly scream subtlety, blasting by in an impressive flurry of fretboard wizardry and percussive gymnastics in under three minutes, whilst the nine minute “Seven Horns Of War” is comparatively ambitious and cinematic in scope.
The intro of “Seven Horns…” brings to mind any number of Charlton Heston’s movies, before frenetic riffage gives way to female choirs and a spoken word passage. Finally, George Kollias tears heaven asunder once more with his thunderous drumming, augmented by a chorus of horns that reminds me of the orc chase from “Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers”. The cinematic quality is reinforced to great effect again on “That Which Is Forbidden”, “Revel In Their Suffering” and “The Imperishable Stars Are Sickened”.
Though Niles competency and quality has never been in doubt, I’ve personally felt that a hint of stagnation has been creeping into their sound ever since 2012s “At The Gates Of Sethu”. Thankfully, the shake-up caused by Dallas being replaced by Brian Kingsland (of Enthean fame) appears to have injected a fresh sense of urgency into Nile, to the point that “Vile Nilotic Rites” sees them rediscovering the epic brutality and hunger of early releases such as “Black Seeds Of Vengeance” and “In Their Darkened Shrines”. It’s more of the same… only better.