Review: Nile – What Should Not Be Unearthed

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South Carolina death metallers Nile have released their eighth studio album, What Should Not Be Unearthed. Being a gigantic Nile fanboy, I jumped at the opportunity to review it… so do we leave it buried Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka or do we, um, Unearth it? (I’m so sorry for that.)

If you’re unfamiliar with Nile, let me first welcome you to the world of heavy metal and give you a quick history: The band has been crafting Egyptian-themed death metal since 1993, releasing their first LP in 1998. Though not a tech death band, their playing style does rely heavily on precise and focused technique (just with no weedles and deedles or purple artwork). The band’s lineup has been rather stable since 2005, consisting of originator Karl Sanders on guitar/vokills, Dallas Toler-Wade also on guitar/vokills, and George Kollias on drums.

Karl-sanders-2 Dallas_Toler-Wade_of_Nile_2 GeorgeKollias

These guys are really good musicians.  Like VERY really good.

The last time we met with Nile in 2012 they had released At the Gate of Sethu, an album that was met with a fair amount of criticism, mainly over the production. Simply put, the guitars lacked punch: listening to that album, you might think the bass was turned all the way down on your stereo; the entire thing just sounds thin and heavily processed. Worry no more, for Nile has remedied all production issues with What Should Not Be Unearthed and one listen to the first single “Call to Destruction” should assuage any cautious listener:

This song provides a great cross-section of elements that we’ve come to expect from the band: deathy, middle-eastern tinged riffs (particularly between 1:35 and 1:50) juxtaposed with doomier passages and a gorgeous guitar solo. The song also brings with it a rejuvenated sense of anger from the band, as evidenced both by the lyrical content and harsh vocals. However, the first problem occurs once the next track, “Negating the Abominable Coils of Apep” kicks in with all of the same elements, dangerously similar to the one which came before it… and then again on the third track. So while consistency can be a good attribute, a little more creativity in the songwriting would have helped greatly.

Even the better songs on the album are not without drawbacks. For example,”Rape of the Black Earth” is a ferocious death metal beast that doesn’t slow down once in its 4:35 run time, but there’s nothing uniquely Nile contained within; I could envision 20 other death metal bands playing it. The second single “Evil to Cast Out Evil” does a great job of sounding like Nile and would fit on a greatest hits compilation, but is much too similar to “Utterances of the Crawling Dead” from Those Whom the Gods Detest.

The instrumentation is extraordinary as always, for I can at any point focus my attention on the current riff and be blown away at the skill, speed and precision at play. Their drummer is a beast of a man: George can blastbeat like a supercharged metronome and switch speeds at the drop of a hat, interjecting fills as he sees fit. Particularly appealing are the times when the guitars slow down to a doomy crawl, and while pounding the double-bass pedal he’s inserting interesting little flourishes with the rest of his kit, most notably in the middle of the title track.

The biggest gripe I have with What Should Not Be Unearthed is that even after multiple listens, very few of the songs remain memorable, like the band is on autopilot. Honestly, I had a difficult time composing this review because it easily drifted into the background of my mind. This wasn’t an issue I’ve had with any prior Nile release, for example every song off of Those Whom the Gods Detest was instantly memorable and creative enough to survive multiple listens. The best guitar riffs off this album can’t match those from classics like “As He Creates, So He Destroys” and don’t even try finding a solo as good as those from “Cast Down the Heretic“.

Though a technically proficient album with improved production over its predecessor, there aren’t more than two or three really good songs. What Should Not Be Unearthed is an album that won’t get Lavished to the Slave Stick, but it’s also not worth Masturbating the War God over (sorry for that as well). I still love the band and will continue to support them, so this album will just serve as a mild road-bump for me.

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2 / 5 Toilets ov Hell ™

What Should Not Be Unearthed was released on Nuclear Blast records.

(images via Nuclear Blast, Guitar Muse, Wikipedia, and Eternal Terror)

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