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Another Lesson in Technical Excellence... and Egyptology!,
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This review is from: Ithyphallic (Audio CD)
Having got into Nile at the time of the release of Annihilation of the Wicked and then moved backward to In Their Darkened Shrines I was awaiting the release of Ithyphallic with not inconsiderable excitement. Nile, like Opeth exist as the cream of the crop of modern extreme metal. They are the genres renaissance men, pushing the boundaries of musicianship and blurring the frontiers of genres.
Nile's development, if not as musicians, as songwriters and arrangers has been an impressive one. While undoubtedly awe-inspiring I found In Their Darkened Shrines to be almost too complex in places. In other places it became a little too textural and meandering. With Annihilation of the Wicked they hit it just perfectly. There were the North African sounding sections, technical mastery and speed in spades. But added to those factors there was a distinct songwriting sensibility that was absent on the previous release. Lashed to the Slave Stick and Cast Down the Heretic being the finest examples of this. With Ithyphallic, Nile have attempted to sidestep the very same problem that Carcass faced more than a decade ago: When your lyrics and music have become as technical and challenging as possible, where do you go next?
Nile's first solution appears to be to rely less on the blistering 250+BPM speed workouts that peppered the previous two albums. There are more traditional chord progressions and more mid-tempo grind. Secondly Sanders appears to have taken a less wordy and complex line with the lyrics. Indeed this is no bad thing. The use of repeated refrains in As He Creates, So He Destroys work brilliantly, realising a potential that was hinted at but never reached in songs like The Blessed Dead.
While things sound a little less frenzied and technical in places, don't be put off. This is still the Nile we know and love. Its still fast, its still full of ridiculous dynamic changes and athletic drumming. The instrumental sections are still present and correct, in my opinion conveying a more Arabic feel that the straight-forward cod-Egyptian stylings of the past.
Ithyphallic is beautifully produced and absolutely crammed full of lush guitar textures, keyboard, horns and bells and will take time to fully explore. Although much of the album has undoubtedly yet to fully imprint itself on my consciousness my current feeling is that the songwriting is slightly weaker than on Annihilation of the Wicked. Perhaps it is missing a Lashed to the Slavestick? Only time and many more listens will tell. One thing is certain though Nile's intelligent touch and technical mastery makes them excellent spokesmen for death metal and indeed metal in general. With luck Ithyphallic will bring their music to even greater audiences.