It’s always exciting when a new Nile album is upon us. The Egyptian-themed technical death metal masters always come up with a novel sound for each album, even though they’re always orientally-influenced, there’s always a different, unique flair to the album. Sometimes they go more experimental, sometimes they go more death metal. Their eighth album, What Should Not Be Unearthed, sees them going for a more straightforward death metal approach after their more technical and progressive musings on At The Gate Of Sethu. Given that it’s a Nile album, we know it’s likely to be good, but exactly how good? And what does it sound like? Let’s find out.
What Should Not Be Unearthed goes straight to business. Right from the beginning the band clearly define where they’re going with this album. Ominous-sounding, fast, crushing riffs accentuated by atonal lead lines at the end. There’s less of a directly Middle Eastern influence and more of a sound that builds on ideas established during the band’s career. Out of their previous albums, the closest comparison could probably be drawn to the dense, low-tuned riffing of Black Seeds Of Vengeance mixed with some of the groovier parts of Annihilation of The Wicked. The band had said that they’re going for a heavier, more base sound with this album and that’s fairly true of what they ended up accomplishing.
What does carry over from this album’s direct predecessor though, is the casual disregard for for rigid time signatures, as the band have seemingly mastered timing. So many sections in songs are difficult to quantify in terms of musical meter, and it gives the album more depth and complexity. There are very few other bands that write with such unfettered rhythmic character, and seeing Nile keep pursuing this direction is definitely satisfying. Another aspect that the band have been developing for years and have fully implemented on this album is the odd vocal timing. Nile songs have always been creative with their vocal lines, but this time around they use it very liberally, and the end result, combined with the rhythmic irreverence, is very intricate and enjoyable, if not a bit of an acquired taste.
The songs themselves, individually, aren’t as memorable as most songs on previous Nile records, and that’s a bit of a shame. No song is boring or unnecessary, and there is always something worth listening to in each one even in many repetitions, but the listener doesn’t come away with as much to take away as they would with previous albums. This is due to the heavier focus on more death metal based, lower-string riffing with less lead lines just a general emphasis on being more aggressive with the music, which reduces the wiggle room the band has to go off on more experimental or progressive passages. As a trade-off, the album is one of their heaviest and most gloomy. The melodic qualities of the album are very oppressive and generally dark.
The production has also changed from the band’s previous release to highlight these musical changes. While the guitar tone on Sethu was thin and precise, here it’s very full and a bit more messy. Again, this works well with style of playing present here that’s more focused on fast, downtuned, atonal riffing as opposed to the previous album’s more melodic approach. Nile clearly wanted this album to be as heavy as possible, and they’ve done a good job of what they set out to do.
Overall, What Should Not Be Unearthed is yet another solid album in a band whose career is just solid album after solid album. This time they’ve gone and harnessed the basest anger for their sound, producing a heavy album that feels like the march of a horde of beasts. Fans who were looking for the bands more expressive side that manifests through heavily Egyptian-influenced lead lines or ambient passages might be a bit disappointed, but there’s still some of that here, and fans of Nile’s career in general will find a slew of material to get their ears wet.
Nile’s What Should Not Be Unearthed gets…