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Nile - Black Seeds of Vengeance (Relapse)

Anyone out there reading this who is a fan of death metal will be amazed to realise that this extreme form of music is now 14 years old! What's more amazing (apart from the fact that I've been listening to metal for at least 17 years) is that it has survived the stormy seas of alternative music, from grunge to the bastard that is black metal and still came out of it defiant and still as brutal as it first tore it's way so bloodily out of the thrash metal womb back in 1986.

Sure, nothing much musically has changed, blast beats/septic vocals/frantic leads/songs about the more unpleasant things in life, but it's refreshing and encouraging to see a band like Nile come along and suddenly set the boundaries for which every other death metal band will be compared.

For the uninitiated, Nile is a four piece form America - Karl Sanders, vocals, guitar, Dallas Toler, guitar, vocals, Chief Spires, bass, vocals, and Pete Hammoura, drums, vocals - whose fascination with everything Egyptian led them to form a ground-breaking band that has earned them respect from metal fans and Egyptologists alike. And this, their second album for Relapse, is nothing short of astonishing.

The inner notes, which accompany each song on the album, actually read like a history text, such is the extent of the research to which main man Karl Sanders studied. For example, the title of the album "deals with the subject of the Amalachites - a pestilential nation of nomadic peoples that continually plagued the Egyptians, and also the Hebrews during the Exodus. Such was their brutality that Jehovah said of their leader, Amalek, 'For his sins, Amalek shall be the first in Hell.'" Elsewhere you have 'Chapter for transforming into a snake', taken respectfully from The Papyrus of the Undying, a religious and profane literature of the ancient Egyptians, in which we learn that the gods and man were able to assume at will the form of any animal or bird in the next life.

Not your average 'sex, drugs & rock n' roll' lyrics, then!

Musically they come across as a combination of Morbid Angel & Cannibal Corpse, both legends in the field, but where Nile differ is their use of other instruments not normally associated with metal - an argoul (a kind of double reed oboe with a mouthpiece made of two pieces of reed), gut string classical guitars, monk chanting and gongs. Witness the atmospheric epic that is 'To dream of Ur' that will literally sweep you away. Yet don't be fooled, for all their lyrical research and musical mystics Nile are still brutally heavy and incredibly fast - approach with caution. Still, if you want to experience an album like nothing you've ever heard before, I urge you to hear this.

Ken Blackmore

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