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Transcending Eras: NILE - Vile Nilotic Rites Review

The death metal titans endure line-up changes to deliver yet another tomb of technical brilliance.

Words by Rohan (@manvsplaylist):

NILE are set to deliver to the world their latest offering of Mesopotamia-drenched technical death metal mastery. And while this may sound like a journey the band have led you on before, rest assured that on Vile Nilotic Rites, there’s plenty of fertile ground to cover, as NILE prove once again they are masters of complexity, texture & technicality.

Coming up on 25 years as a band with creative force Karl Sanders at the helm and paired with drum god & long-time member George Kollias, Vile Nilotic Rites is NILE’s 9th full-length album and first to feature new members Brad Parris (bass/vocals) and Brian Kingsland (guitar/vocals). The injection of fresh voices in the development of these tracks, coupled with what Sanders describes as a more balanced & inclusive writing process, has resulted in a NILE album that still sounds just as fresh and deadly as what Catacombs (1998) did when it set the underground ablaze over 21 years ago.

Within the first 30 seconds of album opener Long Shadows of Dread, the message is clear: NILE are still one of the undisputed forces in extreme metal. All the familiar elements of their style are here: frenetic riffing, unrelenting blast beats giving way to beyond-human technical fills, constantly shifting changes of tempo, and masterful lead soloing. After the opener’s subtle combination of speed, stomp and groove, it’s followed with an entirely un-subtle bludgeoning of full force chaos in Oxford Handbook of Savage Genocidal Warfare. The BPM blasts delivered by Kollias here seemingly shatter his own previous standards, as he somehow manages to guide this track through three minutes of relentless urgency, and with foot control that is in a class of its own. With a barrage of inhuman speed from all fronts, from the precision and clarity of the riffs, to the control delivered from behind the kit, Vile Nilotic Rites showcases some of the most technical, precise doses of demonically fast death metal that has seen the light of day in recent years. That is a deliberately bold statement, but that’s exactly what NILE deliver.

The speed and intensity are dialed back with the following title track, but that in no way makes any compromises on its potency or weight. Leading with more of a forceful stomp than an all-out speed race, the track offers an interesting shift in pace that creates a shallow moment of respite before the chaos continues. These intermittent shifts in tempo, pacing and dynamics are a constant presence throughout the entire journey of the album, making for an overall more balanced offering when taken at its whole. Where is the Wrathful Sky, delivered towards the end of the album, is another highlight and a shining example of how these diverse elements can come together so cohesively.

For these ears, one of the standout cuts from the record is Seven Horns of War. Clocking in at over 8.5 minutes, it places up there with one of the longer journeys NILE has ever committed to tape. What a ride it is. With constant tempo shifts, it’s impossible not to make the analogy about being tossed around in grade 5 rapids. It’s the first time on the album where the band show directly more of their ancient mythological leaning sounds. Refreshingly though, the mood created is entirely new. One of the biggest fears going into this record was that old familiar (and perhaps by now, predictable?) stylings & themes would be laid out again and beaten bare. But that’s not the case here. The way this track seamlessly weaves in & out of different moods and textures is astonishing. The cinematic soundscapes created here are something that only a band like NILE would attempt, and only something that NILE could execute. This is sure to be one of the most talked-about moments on the album. Not to be missed.

The depth and clarity of the production on Vile Nilotic Rites simply can’t be overstated enough. Even at its most relentless, the fine detail of every instrument is ever present in the mix. On top of this clarity is the incredible depth & and warmth of the sound, seemingly captured deep from within the soaring caverns of an ancient burial chamber. With so much technicality, movement and speed, it all sounds amazingly clear and balanced, and to be sure, heavy as a Ramesses statue. Vile Nilotic Rites is the first time NILE has collaborated with mixing & mastering engineer Mark Lewis, and with the success that this teamwork has produced, one hopes it will not be the last.

NILE have a remarkable ability to craft balanced songs. Tempo changes are prolific but never feel forced or erratic. There is a constant groove buried amongst the frenetic pace of all these cuts. The haunting atmospherics steeped in ancient Egyptian mythology are still littered throughout the album but never feel tired or out-of-place. Naturally, the sheer sonic density of these compositions goes without saying. Left to anyone else, combining all these elements would result in a dizzying, disappointing mess, but NILE are an entity completely unto themselves. Their playing ability is not what defines them as a band; it’s the crafting of the songs themselves, the hooks and the ability to take a vision of extreme technicality and bring that vision into reality.

It would be remiss to not spend a moment reflecting on the incredible technical brilliance of drummer George Kollias, as Vile Nilotic Rites showcases his talent perhaps like never before. Whether it’s the presence of the drums in the mix, the clarity of the mix itself, or just the man’s god given talents, Kollias has never sounded so good. His control and precision while at warp speed (see Snake Pit Mating Franzy) seemingly defies the laws of physics and human anatomical movement. Kollias remains the glue to all the dizzying parts of this album, and places him squarely on a plateau of drum gods where he stands with only a handful of others.

Having just completed a hell-raising tour across Europe alongside technical co-conspirators Hate Eternal, NILE are set to embark on a nationwide trek across the US to bring these tracks to the live setting, an experience that should not be missed. With Vile Nilotic Rites, the band have once again proven their status as one of the dominating forces in extreme music. The record is an entirely engaging, dynamic listen from front to back. NILE’s legacy of output from their 25 year career is as strong as any, and the latest incarnation of the band ensures that they will have the hunger and creative energy to continue for many years to come. Long may it continue.

Nile Vilotic Rites is out November 1st via Nuclear Blast. Get your copy HERE.

Cover art by Michał "Xaay" Loranc


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