originally written by Chris McDonald
Nile’s growth rate has been off the charts since the release of what was, in my view, their break through album in Annihilation of the Wicked. Between the long-awaited arrival of a stable drum presence in George Kollias and the superb production of Neil Kernon, Annihilation made for one of tech-death’s most powerful and memorable exercises. Ithyphallic, a top-tier album of its own, largely followed in the footsteps of its predecessor in approach and sound, and Those Whom The Gods Detest, the third outing of the Kollias era, does as well. But goddamn if Nile hasn’t stepped up every single aspect of their craft on this recording. From the band’s always-stunning musicianship to without a doubt the best production job they’ve had to date, the sheer technical marvel of Those Whom the Gods Detest is exceeded only by quite possibly the strongest batch of songs they’ve ever concocted.
Few would deny at this stage in the game that Nile have found their formula and are sticking to it. The band has proved in recent years an almost miraculous ability to meld head-spinning technicality and speed with monumental choruses and gang chants to produce songs both flooring in their velocity and catchy in their overall structure. We all remember the first time we heard the barbarous shouts of “Cast Down the Heretic” or the gigantic conclusion of “Eat of the Dead,” and its ability to hammer the fucking point home after blowing you away that has allowed Nile to achieve popularity with a sound that remains the complete opposite of accessible. While many of Nile’s riffs tend to go by in a blur on initial listens, they have a knack for making the overall tone and feel of each song stick, a trait that has made them the envy of many of their tech-death peers.
I’m ranting about this because Those Whom the Gods Detest is perhaps the band’s most triumphant outing in terms of channeling the technical/brutal death metal formula into memorable, distinctive songs. Nile’s ability to create a dark, empowering atmosphere through highly intricate death metal has never been realized more fully, and the reintroduction of Eqyptian atmospheric flourishes (“Kafir!”) adds a mystical feel to the core of the sound that has been absent since the band began toning these elements down from Annihilation onward. Much like the last two albums, the shorter tracks are merciless displays of face-ripping drumming and dexterous guitarwork that sync up so perfectly it’s still hard to believe, while the longer songs allow the trio to open up the groovier aspects of their sound (“Utterances ofthe Crawling Dead”) as well as implement more varied tempos and more of those utterly brutal gang chants (the chorus to the title track is what metal is all about, folks).
It’s been said many times, but it bears repeating; the addition of George Kollias on drums has opened up new dimensions to Nile’s compositions that weren’t possible before. The dude plays his kit like a man on fire, effortlessly stringing impossible speedy tom rolls with some of the most pummeling blast beats you’re going to hear (check out the roll/blast that opens the verse to “Hittite Dung Incantation”), while leading the songs forward with double-bass work so brutally fast it’s sickening. Dallas Toller-Wade’s role as lead vocalist is equally important to Nile’s newly found focus and energy. I challenge anyone to find a vocalist in technical death that can bellow with as much clarity and personality as this skulleted fellow, and it allows for some awesomely sick vocal hooks. Above all, these are just amazingly intense and entertaining death metal songs, and while the core approach is largely unchanged since the last two albums, there’s something about Those Whom the Gods Detest that just screams “career-defining.”
With all the praise I’ve heaped on Nile’s approach to songwriting, I don’t feel that painstaking detail about each track is too necessary here. As previously stated, most of you reading this review have a good idea what to expect from a Nile disc, so I’ll just leave it at this; even from a band we’ve already recognized as leaders in their field, Those Whom the Gods Detest is almost startling in its all-around excellence. It somehow feels like the band’s most complex and accessible work all at once, and the amazing talent that spews from every pore of this album makes it a necessary venture for anyone with even a passing interest in death metal. I’d been fairly confident in recent months that Ulcerate’s Everything Is Fire would be taking the 2009 death metal crown with gusto, but this album has reminded me to never count the veterans out before they’ve had a chance to say their peace. Well done, guys.