Saturday, March 10, 2018

Nile - What Should Not Be Unearthed

It's a Nile album, and that's okay

Nile's career trajectory is fairly well known at this point, but I think it's worth noting that their decline after the thundering megalith that is Annihilation of the Wicked has been oddly enjoyable.  They're in a strangely enticing funk as of now, not unlike the smelled of burned bacon.  It's not what you wanted, and it's definitely inferior to how good it could have been, but it's still fine if you have a certain taste for it (or an affinity for bad cooking).  Ithyphallic and Those Whom the Gods Detest are kinda controversial in their standing with the general fandom, with most people agreeing that there's really nothing wrong with them on the surface, but there's just... something missing.  Some undefined intangible that made the previous records so great that just isn't quite present here.  The only true misstep so far as been At the Gates of Sethu, which cleaned up their awesome unique wall of sound and amped up the technicality to previously unseen levels.  As a result, a lot of that steel-fisted ferocity was lost, and their penchant for badass hooks went out the window.

And that's where What Should Not Be Unearthed comes in, because this is about as good of a mea culpa we could have possibly asked for.  It's clear they're never going to go back to their darkened shrines any time soon, so seeing them return to their detesting gods is wholly welcome for me.  This album's greatest strength is also its greatest weakness, that being that it's basically a return to the sound from two albums ago.  On one hand, this means we're getting exceptionally solid hyperdeath again, rife with the same Egyptian scales Karl is so in love with, Dallas handling the lion's share of vocals still, and George still hasn't learned how to play a beat slower than 40000bpm.  On the other hand, the band isn't challenging themselves in any way and are just resting on their laurels, releasing a safe album that sounds identical to previous albums that were already proven to be successful.

For all of Sethu's faults, I could at least appreciate that the band was trying to evolve.  That's not the case on Unearthed (pardon the truncating of the album titles, you can understand how annoying it is that they keep naming shit full sentences), where Nile instead just safely goes back into their comfort zone and make no effort to advance further.  Maybe this has ultimately been the bugaboo holding the last few albums back, and Sethu just finally made it obvious.  They've been chasing the mighty shadow of Annihilation for over a decade now, and when they tried to do anything else, it turned out they weren't all that good at it.  Rehashing Annihilation is what they do best.

And frankly?  I'm okay with that.  Really, Unearthed may not be pushing any boundaries but it's a showcase of a band playing to their strengths.  Basically every song here powers forwards at extremely high tempos, backed by relentless blasting and meaty tremolo riffs, highlighted with that sexy Middle Eastern flavor and gale-force bellows from Dallas and deep gurgles from Karl.  That's exactly what they're good at, so it's nice to hear them quit fucking with the noodly technicality and jump headfirst back into explosive riffage again.  Nile has always basically just been regular old death metal played three times faster than necessary with a unique sense of melody at their core, and tracks like "Liber Stellae Rubeae", "Rape of the Black Earth", and the massive "Call to Destruction" showcase that with aplomb.  There's the token traditional interlude with "Ushabti Reanimator" and some slow crushing sections like the back half of the title track as well.  It's nothing you haven't heard before but it's just as good as it's always been.  The only thing it's really missing is a super long song, being the first album not to see a track break the seven minute mark since the debut (though the title track falls only a second or two short).  It's a Nile album.  That's really all the explanation it needs.

So ultimately, Unearthed is both disappointing and satisfying.  It's disappointing that it's regressive fanservice dressed up as a heralded return to their roots, but it's satisfying because they're still really god damned good at that sound.  Clearly, the satisfaction outweighs the disappointment.  Personally, I thought Detest was a great album, and Unearthed is pretty much exactly on par with that one.  So however you felt about them two albums ago is exactly how you'll feel about this one.  Sure, they still haven't written anything as pulse-pounding and exciting as "Lashed to the Slave Stick" or as epic as "Unas, Slayer of the Gods" in a long time, but they can keep giving me replacements like "Papyrus Containing the Spell..." and "4th Arra of Dagon" as long as they like if they're going to stay at this level of quality.


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