Nile: In their darkened shrines
25/04/12 || Smalley
For me, Nile basically has a perfect discography, in the sense that I like every single record they’ve done to date, albeit to varying degrees (and even liked a re-release of some demos… ooh, in which I dissed their first two albums; oh well, live and learn, right?). However, one album in particular stands out for me as their crowning masterpiece, easily. “Amongst the catacombs”? Nope, a lil’ too raw for its own good. “Black seeds”? Same deal. “Annihilation…”? I feel they went too far with the “brutal” death side of their sound, to the neglect of the tech death side, and got kinda repetitive. ”Ithyphallic”? Good, but could’ve done with more fast tracks and a sharper production. “Those whom”? Very, very good overall, but the track-to-track flow could’ve been better. Okay, so enough stalling already; again, while I like all of these albums, I still have to go with another one for my fave Nile record. So which the fuck one is it already, you’re thinking? The one, the only, 2002’s “In their darkened fucken shrines”, baby.
9. For me, there are basically three reasons why “shrines” sticks out as Nile’s crowning achievement; it’s their most consistently intense album, without also devolving into mindless brutality or forgetting about track-to-track structuring. It’s their most consistently ambitious effort, not just because it’s their longest album with their longest song (the 11+ minute “Unas, slayer of the gods”), but also cuz it does the best job of integrating their brutal/tech death sections along with the Egyptian sound experimentations, the shit that makes them unique and gets them called nerds by Krauts. And thirdly, Tony Lauerno’s off-the-fucken-charts drumming, but I’ll get to that more when it’s time for that section.
The high intensity here is established immediately with “The blessed dead”, which bursts your eardrums with a few blasts of brutal, doomy guitar (along with some cool orchestra shit), before cranking up into hyperspeed-tempo insanity, while also throwing in more than enough switch-ups to keep things engaging, instead of just tryin’ to muddle through merely on brute speed/heaviness. From there, the also-speedy “Excretion text”, while not as varied as “dead”, still functions well as the follow-up, and gives us a relatively simple track to enjoy, just what the doctor ordered before get into the denser “Sarcophagus”; while this one may not be as instantly gratifying, it’s more than worth the patience, and also conveniently leads me to some of my other points about “Shrines” as a whole.
While “Sarcophagus” is barely longer than 5 minutes, it still more than achieves an epic feel through its ominous, crawling tempo (which gives it great synergy, coming after the initial fast material on the album), and its brilliant second half, which slows things down further, as a choir begins this haunting, strangely soothing chant, subtly growing louder and louder before the song eventually fades out. Fucken spin-chilling. As you listen, it really makes you feel like you’ve wandered into some ancient, foreboding religious ceremony; mesmerized, you can’t help but be drawn closer and closer, until the song almost makes you feel as if you’re worshiping the ancient gods yourself, just be listening. Powerful shit.
It’s epic, experimental touches like this, integrated right alongside the more traditional metal, instead of existing outside them (like on certain Nile tunes), that give “shrines” its greater sense of ambition, and can make you feel like you’re sitting in the audience for some epic Egyptian opera, instead of just in your bedroom, listening to 3 ancient Egypt dorks from South Carolina (and one Puerto Rican). Anyway, “Kheftiu asar butchiu” keeps the variety flowing perfectly, getting us fast again with the most blistering tempos of the entire record, before “Unas, slayer of the gods” takes us through an 11+ minute epic of ominous, theatrical Egyptian atmosphere, extended soloing, thrashy tempos, and insistent, churning mid-speed sections. Some of the Egyptian sounds here are kinda cheesy, and the song is a long one, but overall, it works very well, and is surprisingly cohesive to boot, so it’s nice to hear Nile swing for the fucken fences and succeed.
“Churning the maelstrom” is another fun, shorter fast track, but nothing too standout (besides one cool solo), then “I whisper in the ear of the dead” brings us a steady, impending sense of dread with its slower, grinding riffage, and tensely quiet, threatening spoken-word sections. Follow-up “Wind of Horus” is a predictably faster (but still enjoyable) track, until we finally arrive at the “In their darkened shrines” quartet-series of tracks that close the record out in a suitably epic, bombastic manner.
Part 1, “Hall of Saurian entombment”, is just the atmospheric intro track in the series, rich in those thick, exotic, mystical Egyptian sounds, and kinda low on energy, but it works for what it is, and Part 2, “Invocation to seditious heresy”, gets us back to teh metal with dramatic riffs and fast tempos. Part 3, “Destruction of the temple of the enemies of Ra”, starts with some more Egyptian atmospherics, but soon gets us back to more speedy, heavy stuff, and finally, part 4, “Ruins”, is a nice cool-down of repetitive, easy-going riffing/soloing, perfect after 52 minutes of tech death insanity, and also perfectly captures that feeling of something slowly-but-surely winding down to its destruction. All in all, I wouldn’t say any of the “shrines” end-quartet of tracks are highlights of the album, but they are all good, and complete the perfect track record of no weak songs on “shrines”.
Oh yeah, and plz no complaining about how long this section was; this isn’t the first time we’ve seen long songwriting sections on this site, after all!!! Still was a fun article though, Traumster. On to production now…
8. As shitty as his review of “shrines” might have been otherwise (jus’ kiddin’… or am I??), I do agree with IG that this isn’t the best Nile production. Wouldn’t say it’s below their usual standards like he did, but yeah, something like “Annihilation…” or “Those whom…” definitely had better knob-jobs. But, I still say this sounds better than “Ithyphallic” or the first two, and the production doesn’t really have any factors that detract from the overall enjoyment; the rhythm guitar sound packs a lot of punch, the lead guitar has a pretty intense sound goin’, and the drums have a nice, strong reverb to them. And, while I can’t make out where the bass is very well, and it isn’t super-polished or Nile’s best production to date, it is still pretty good.
8.5. I like the variety of rhythm-riffing here, whether it’s the faster, thrashier stuff or the slower, more epic doomy stuff, but the real stand-out here are all those wild, high-pitched, agile, lengthy solos; just when you think they’re about to stop, they keep going! And a good thing too, since they’re so fucken cool; give me more!!!
7.5. Not much super-unique or super-understandable death growling here, and the two vocalists don’t sound all that different from one another, but I still like the power, gutturalness, and volume behind them, making them sound a lil’ more… monstrous than a lot of other growlers, I guess is what I’m gettin’ at. Also can’t turn down all the cool choral moments whenever they pop up, either.
5.5. If I close my eyes and really concentrate, I can generally make out where the bass is… and it really isn’t interesting at all. Very little “breakaway” from what the rhythm guitar is doing, so don’t expect to hear any Steve DiGiorgio-style adventurousness, so to speak. And it’s weird, cuz there were actually not one, but two bassists here (both Sanders & Wade), and neither of them do much with this instrument; maybe both of them switched bass duties per song, like a “You did the awesome riffing/big solo the last song, now it’s my turn to take the spotlight, so you take care of the boring low-end stuff this time”-type situation with them? I dunno, but it really doesn’t hurt the album, considering, y’know, everything I’ve written before. Plus, what I’m about to write. Extra point above a mere 5 here to not be too hard on ‘em.
10. Yes, a 10, the first 10 I’ve given to any section in any of my Class6s to date. Why a 10 for Tony Laureano’s drumming, which is my fave drum performance on any Nile record to date? Because, I was always into the more “diverse” drumming styles over the faster-but-more-straightforward style of blasting; it’s why I’d much rather listen to Lombardo on “Seasons” than say, Hoglan on ”Mechanize”; the latter is more impressive technically, but the other is just more entertaining to listen to. No doubt, Laureano does play some pretty fast shit here, but the real appeal lies in the sheer amount of unique, turn-on-a-dime drum fills he’s constantly throwing in, in order to keep the drumming diversity up; now, I have heard some people complain about this before, that the near-constant amount of fills here becomes tiresome, and I do understand why they say this, but for me, it’s just energetic and refreshing. It’s insane how much he varies up his playing this way, and besides fills, I also dig his precise usage of repetitive, cymbal-heavy patterns and double bass whenever necessary, utilizing both much more tightly than most skins-men can, as well as those cool, military marching band-esque rhythms during some of the more dramatic, “theatrical” moments here. All killa, no filla.
7.5. The typical Nile material about Ancient Egyptian history, religion, rituals, methods of contraception, blah blah blah, with some additional influence from Lovecraft’s writings in the last quartet of tracks. I don’t fully get a lot of it, but it does seem somewhat more comprehensible than some of their other records, and it still has enough vivid imagery to be enjoyable; maybe I should have kept the booklet for this one though, in order to read the band’s explanations of the content (shifty ninja face).
8.5. Maybe a bit busy with the addition of the hieroglyphics in the background, but still very fucken METAL; forget the recent whales trend, why aren’t more metal bands obsessed with putting snakes on their covers?
8. Pretty nice, cool font, interesting all-lowercase, no complaints.
N/A. I admit, ya got me; shoulda kept it this time around.
Overall and ending rant
Nile’s working on a new record for release this summer as I type, and while I have high hopes for it in the wake of the very good “Those whom…”, I’m not too optimistic about the chances of them surpassing the career high point they made a decade ago with “shrines”; highly brutal, atmospheric, ambitious, and fucken intelligent, this is pretty much everything a Nile fanatic could hope for and more. Peace out.
- Released: 2002
- Label: Relapse
- Website: www.nile-catacombs.net
- Karl Sanders: guitars, bass, vocals
- Dallas Toler-Wade: guitars, bass, vocals
- Tony Laureano drums, percussion, vocals
- 01. The Blessed Dead
- 02. Execration Text
- 03. Sarcophagus
- 04. Kheftiu Asar Butchiu
- 05. Unas Slayer Of The Gods
- 06. Churning The Maelstrom
- 07. I Whisper In The Ear Of The Dead
- 08. Wind Of Horus
- 09. In Their Darkened Shrines, Part I: Hall Of Saurian Entombment
- 10. In Their Darkened Shrines, Part II: Invocation To Seditious Heresy
- 11. In Their Darkened Shrines, Part III: Destruction Of The Temple Of The Enemies of Ra
- 12. In Their Darkened Shrines, Part IV: Ruins