Nile: At the Gate of Sethu

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Nile: At the Gate of Sethu
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Nile: At the Gate of Sethu
Brutal Death Metal
Nuclear Blast Records
July 3rd, 2012
Release length: 47:38
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Nile had always been a strong Brutal Death Metal band in the underground since their earlieast releases. As time went on, they gradually picked up more and more fans as they continued to shell out new material through Relapse Records. However, it was their 2007 Nuclear Blast Records debut, Ithyphallic, that turned them into a household name. Now, when a new album is due out, it becomes an epic event within much of the Metal world, which is exactly what is happening with their seventh full-length effort, At the Gate of Sethu. But, given the high expectations from fans of old and new, does this recording deliver, or has the spotlight corrupted a truly brutal experience?

Well, the production to this album is pretty good, though a bit too light. The instruments are crisp in every way, but not to the point of sterilization. The guitars have a decent Death Metal distortion to them that is razor sharp, but a bit too blunt to make the greatest impact. The bass is there, but barely, especially when the volume is cranked and it starts to get lost amid the higher pitch of the audio. The bass kicks have a very strong click with snares that sound slightly hollow but still pack enough bite that is comparable to the kicks. Their ownly downfall is that they are too loud given the weaker guitars, and when they are the main focal point at faster speeds, they, as well as the kicks, can be the only things that come through. The cymbals often have varied volume levels, and really give off the sensation of being right in front of the kit and hearing many of them at their respectable distances. Of course, the varied vocal performances are here once more, but catering largely to the harsher, rasping guttural approach than the deeper growls of early Nile, often coming off as if they are trying to emulate a Death album, and not just in the vocals either.

As far as the actual songs go, the higher pitch really does hurt what they bring to the table, often losing much of the crushing atmosphere and brutality that typically is associated with a Nile recording. However, when the group is focusing on trying to be heavy, it shows. “When My Wrath is Done” features some technical drumming against deeper guitar and bass chords that feel chugging compared to other songs. The slower pace really accentuates the bass guitar, and when the maniacal moments kick in, you immediately want them to go away so that the punishing sound of the music, laced with subtle Egyptian tones, brings out the best of what this group was once known for. “The Gods Who Light Up the Sky at the Gate of Sethu” is another fantastic offering that really just hammers away at the listener. The chaotic technicality is largely dropped from headbang worthy soul curshing Death Metal that allows the deeper sounds to penetrate the lighter tone, and the kicks of the drum kit to really stand out. A true sense of desolation can be felt throughout as well, establishing the perfect atmosphere to immediately want to start a mosh against.

But, with that said, At the Gate of Sethu often just doesn’t have the same bite. There’s more favoring of the chaotic faster paced material here than the slower, trudging passages that better benefits from the deeper tone. A lot of these end up sounding better at lower volumes so the bass doesn’t almost nearly drop out, and even then not all the songs are that great. “Tribunal of the Dead” is one that stands out thanks to it feeling like one of the less chaotic offerings just played a bit faster here and there. The slower passages around the half-way point pack a little extra edge to them, and the Egyptian atmospheres are subtle, though the rhaspier vocals really pull away from the impact that the music has, feeding into the lighter pitch once more. “The Fiends Who Come to Steal the Magick of the Deceased” is about the same way, and the additional cleaner chanting vocals that do appear work well with the song. But, overall it isn’t anything too unique to the band, nor is it really that strong an offering thanks to the snares and kicks coming through to maintain one beat while the sometimes eccentic chords go off on a tantrum that doesn’t really reflect well against the pace the drumming is trying to maintain, not to mention it just feels dragged out after a while, causing the listener to just start losing interest.

Much of those arguments can really depict the rest of the album. “Enduring the Eternal Molestation of Flame” has some nice bridges that are catchy and will have your head bobbing along, but the frantic guitar work just sounds like someone with ADHD working at the guitar. The lack of the Middle Eastern atmosphere outside random three to four second sections of region specific sounds or instruments is another strike against it. Also, the guitar solo leaves things coming off hollow thanks to that lighter quality. “When My Wrath is Done” has some great parts to it as well, but again the solo sounds horrible, and the clashing between the guitars and drums is as evident as ever, especially just prior to the solo when the the drums randomly have a seizure and change the pace for a few seconds for no reason whatsoever. “Natural Liberation of Fear Through the Ritual Deception of Death” also stands out with some brutal material and deeper tone to the music, as well as some technical chords that fit the flow of the song. The shorter length also helps to keep it from overstaying its welcome, making it another of the better faster and intricate songs of the release. It also seems to flow into “Ethno-Musicological Cannibalisms,” which, like “Slaves of Xul,” act as some rather impressive Middle Eastern influenced interludes with rather deep tribal throat singing that easily becomes some of the best material on this recording.

Overall, At the Gate of Sethu isn’t anything new or original, but also goes way too far into the technical world of Death Metal. This isn’t to say it doesn’t have good material. There’s a decent amount of songs on here that really hit the listener hard from start to finish. But, there’s no denying that the audio quality hurts the release, and when things get a little too manic, much of the grounding tone of the release drops out in favor of a higher pitch that just doesn’t grab the listener. If you’re a fan of the last two Nile albums, chances are good you’ll like this one too, and for good reason. At the end of the day, however, this just isn’t that inspiring, and even has lost sight of what the band worked so hard to build themselves up as over the years.

01. Enduring the Eternal Molestation of Flame – 4:29
02. The Fiends Who Come to Steal the Magick of the Deceased – 4:30
03. The Inevitable Degradation of Flesh – 5:31
04. When My Wrath is Done – 3:12
05. Slaves of Xul – 1:25
06. The Gods Who Light Up the Sky at the Gate of Sethu – 5:43
07. Natural Liberation of Fear Through the Ritual Deception of Death – 3:31
08. Ethno-Musicological Cannibalisms – 1:40
09. Tribunal of the Dead – 5:55
10. Supreme Humanism of Megalomania – 4:37
11. The Chaining of the Iniquitous – 7:06
Overall Score: 6.5/10


Digital review copy of this release provided by Nuclear Blast Records.