Nile - Ithyphallic
Nuclear Blast (2007)
It’s difficult for this scribe to approach any new Nile album without one’s objectivity being somewhat clouded. After all this South Carolina ensemble are, in my opinion, responsible for the best death metal record – tied first with the mighty Effigy of the Forgotten – in the genre’s 20 year history in the form of In Their Darkened Shrines. It’s hard to discern whether one actually makes oneself like the record or if the feeling is of genuine high regard, but make no bones about it, this offering to the Egyptian Gods is more than sufficient to guarantee Sanders & Co their rightful place in the pantheon of greatness, if they didn’t already reside there.
Ithyphallic marks a return to the frantic pace of yore after the overall slower-feeling, Incantation drenched doom-death of Annihilation of the Wicked. If Annihilation… was Nile’s South of Heaven then Ithyphallic is most certainly Seasons in the Abyss and, in continuance of the Slayer analogy, Nile now possess a similarly formidable back catalogue, with …Shrines neatly taking position in the Reign in Blood slot.
All the usual Nile elements are in full glorious attendance. The absolute sense of foreboding and impending cataclysm runs through the spine of the album from the chilling opening brass and horn-based initiation of “What Can Be Safely Written” to the final death throes of “Even the Gods Must Die”. The Egyptian ambience is provided through “The Infinity of Stone” and once again technicality rubs shoulders with simpler passages in such a seamless manner that one begins to question the need for the adoption of all-out impossibility by other genre dwellers.
The intensity of Ithyphallic – expertly captured by Neil Kernon’s robust production – far outstrips anything the band have committed to record previously, with George Kollias’ drumming simply having to be heard to be believed. Guitarists Karl Sanders and Dallas Toler-Wade also appear in fine fettle with the impossible fret gymnastics of “As He Creates So He Destroys” tempered by melodious passages fit to charm any snake into a deathly trance, with the outro to stand-out track “The Essential Salts” being just one case in point. Not all lead breaks, however, are as beautifully harmonic, with the chaotic after-world breaking back into reality via some particularly crazed soloing, especially that of Sanders (vis-a-vie “Language of the Shadows”), before being banished once more to endless torment by the resumption of megalithic riffage.
Once the dust has settled after yet another Pyramid-ruining offering, the most impressive aspect of Ithyphallic is that while it is undeniably Nile, it presents something different; an extension of what has gone before without ever falling into the trap of repetition. In fact the only other band, of any genre one can care to think of, that can compare in this regard (somewhat freakishly, given the Egyptian-themed name) is Isis.
It is precisely this quality that sets Nile apart from practically every other band, death metal or otherwise, on the planet.
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