A trait I’ve noticed in lots of metal fans (including myself, admittedly) is our tendency to become obsessed and, as a result, turn into collectors of our favorite band’s “stuff” (alternate takes, live albums, demos, splits, rare experimental limited editions, etc. etc. etc.). Metal bands obviously took notice, and they have a long tradition of exploiting it. Unexpected and unasked-for reissues of undeveloped early material are therefore an automatic red flag, as most of these recordings would be better served as bonus material on album reissues (and thankfully a lot them are). So when an email hit my inbox about Nile releasing a demo from 1994, the skeptic gears began turning in overdrive.
Luckily, what we have here is not the type of homebrewed slop better reserved for a second disc. Nile avoids money grab accusations because Worship the Animal is far better than about 95 percent of all other demos ever laid to tape. The production (crisper than their actual debut), the already advanced instrumental prowess, and the quality of the songs add up to a release that just plain does not sound like a demo.
But most of it also doesn’t sound much like the Nile who conquered the death metal sphere from ’98 and on. There is little in the way of blast beats, gurgling death metal vocals or the band’s hyperspeed tremolo harmonies to be found; and there are only small hints of Nile’s Egyptian side. The majority of these 35 minutes are spent in a heavily groove-laden, death/thrash terrain; more Chaos A.D. than Effigy of the Forgotten going on here, you might say. Tracks like “La Chant du Cygre” reveal a band that had yet to discover its wall-of-sound, instead preferring herky-jerky (and very heavy) mid-paced riffs under half-sung hoarse vocals. Despite the stylistic difference, most of Worship the Animal works, as Nile was already accomplished at compiling an interesting song. They get a bit long-winded at times, but to be fair they still do that, so it’s a fault that most fans will look past.
The song that most accurately predicts the Nile we know is “Nepenthe.” Drawn-out, minor key harmonies, a very Morbid Angelish pre-verse riff (complete with some of the only blast beats) and a ripping solo section sum up to nearly eight minutes of fury that is unmistakably Nile. It is an obvious predecessor to later epics such as “Unas Slayer of the Gods” and “Annihilation of the Wicked,” and while it might not bring quite the power of those classics, it sure as hell anchors a release that is much more than your usual demo.
Worship the Animal somehow gets away with being a peek into Nile’s embryonic years, a time capsule of the era in which it was released, and quality metal. In this way it should appeal to different fans of the band in vastly different ways, with age (or year of metal initiation) being a large determining factor in how it is viewed. Just don’t hit the play button expecting this Nile to sound like the one that showed up four years later with Amongst The Catacombs Of Nephren-Ka.