Nile: At the gate of Sethu
25/07/12 || Smalley
From the current Net buzz I’m hearing for Nile’s “At the gate of Sethu”, a lot of people seem pretty disappointed in it. I mean, besides a select few, most people don’t seem to hate it on a “St. Anger”-level, or even anywhere close to that, but the majority’s still seeming to find it mediocre, even those who enjoyed everything Nile’s done up through previous effort ‘Those whom…’ But, while we can’t know exactly at this point what “Sethu”‘s legacy will be for Nile once they’ve returned to the sands, it looks like I’m ending up with the minority opinion for the time being (AGAIN), since, while “Sethu” does have a few issues that take it down a notch, ultimately, it ends up as another solid, enjoyable Nile effort for me. Definitely not their best album, but still a satisfying one, IMO.
However, enjoyable or not, the disappointing aspects here are sadly the most memorable ones (at least at first), so I guess we should tackle those before we get to the tasty tech death core of this particular mummified lollipop; first, there are the more minor issues regarding some of the vocal stylings here. Harsh-wise, for the majority, it’s the same style we’ve come to expect from Nile over the years; plenty o’ monstrous, cookie monster-bellowing, and slightly cleaner, higher-pitched growls to break up any monotony. However, on something like (deep breath in) “The fiends who come to steal the magick of the deceased” (and deep breath out), we hear some really disappointing, inadequate, raspy shouting, with very little of the necessary power behind them.
And as for clean vocals, occasionally we hear this chant-y work that I’m guessing was meant to sound eerie, but just ends up sounding highly processed and artificial, an anachronism next to Nile’s otherwise naturalistic vocal styles. However, the vocal issues are relatively relatively mild and occasional, especially when put next to the larger, constant issue of “Sethu”‘s guitar production; some of it sounds okay, but a lot still has this overly thin and synthetic quality to it, which lacks the proper punch, and just doesn’t click with Nile’s style (or any other good band’s, for that matter). When I first heard lead single “The inevitable degradation of flesh”, that production initially rendered it just completely unenjoyable for me, so big a shock to the system it was. I mean, I understand wanting to experiment with your proven style some, but at least remember to make your experimentations make sense at the same time.
But fortunately, upon repeat listens, you do get accustomed to the production eventually, like slipping into a hot tub really fast or something, and once the shock’s worn off, the positive aspects of “Sethu” begin to shine through any vocal/production issues. The songwriting is the reliable Nile blend of 11 Egyptian herbs ‘n spices, with plenty o’ speed, groove, brutality, occasionally slowed-down doominess, and technicality, with tons of the same turn-on-a-dime switch-ups you’ve come to expect from this band, while still always remaining catchy, non-gratuitous, and able to piece together song structures that make a satisfying amount of sense.
Performances-wise, while Kollias’s drumming isn’t Nile’s “best to date” like he advertised, it’s still very good (and possibly his personal best yet), and the guitarwork on all fronts remain relentless, with the band’s ability to write intuitive, if not quite super memorable riffage, coming as undiminished. The frantic solos in particular are rather impressive. And, we still get the occasional interlude of uber-creepy, atmospheric Ancient Egyptian ambiance, which is a nice little treat amongst all the modern tech death here.
So, yeah, while the various let-downs here keep “Sethu” from being a great record, the way its basic quality shines through stronger and stronger the more you listen to it, ultimately made it a satisfying experience for me. I was conflicted on whether to go soft or hard with my score (and my c0ck) for this, wavering between 7.5 and 8 for a while, but ultimately, I just felt more than happy enough to gamble with bumping my score up some. Quality-wise, this isn’t near the top of Nile’s body of work, but fuck it, cuz I still had fun with “At the gate of Sethu”, and count it as another satisfactory entry in Nile’s still-spotless discography.
- Released: 2012
- Label: Nuclear Blast
- Website: www.nile-catacombs.net
- Karl Sanders: guitars, bass, keyboards, vocals, glissentar/baglama saz (wtf?)
- Dallas Toler-Wade: guitars, bass, vocals
- George Kollias: percussion
- Mike Breazeale: additional vocals
- Jason Hagan: additional vocals
- Jon Vesano: additional vocals
- 01. Enduring The Eternal Molestation Of Flame
- 02. The Fiends Who Come To Steal The Magick Of The Deceased
- 03. The Inevitable Degradation Of Flesh
- 04. When My Wrath Is Done
- 05. Slaves Of Xul
- 06. The Gods Who Light Up The Sky At The Gate Of Sethu
- 07. Natural Liberation Of Fear Through The Ritual Deception Of Death
- 08. Ethno-Musicological Cannibalisms
- 09. Tribunal Of The Dead
- 10. Supreme Humanism Of Megalomania
- 11. The Chaining Of The Iniquitous