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In Their Darkened Shrines

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  • I haven’t been this fascinated by a [rock/metal] band since I first managed to reach beneath the “Prog Nu Metal’ facade of Tool. As is common with the greatest music, it’s impossible to find adequate vocabulary or points of reference to describe this album. But I desperately want to spread the word about this band’s magic, so I must give it a shot.If I must compare Nile’s music to that of any other band, I would have to say that I am simultaneously or alternately reminded of the stampeding forward motion of [latter day] Morbid Angel, the precise rhythmic frenzies of Dillinger Escape Plan, the mind-numbing grind of Meshuggah, the doominess of Black Sabbath at its darkest, and the intoxicating sense of artistic purpose of Tool. But don’t mistake these vague associations for obvious derivations. Very few artists I’ve heard have the broad originality of Nile. The music is obsessively focused, but full of dynamic vitality. Its pace varies fluidly from ultra-fast to slow. It is very dense, yet thoroughly detailed – a characteristic marvelously enhanced by the superb balance between a ‘wall of sound’ effect and crystalline separation achieved in the sound engineering. Most of the pieces are highly intricate, with elaborate structures and arrangements, yet sound incredibly organic, brutal and evocative. The overall sound is very weighty, but with a razor-sharp edge. The general atmosphere created is quite eerie, in an epic, cinematic way. The basic instrumentation consists of percussion (Tony Laureano), two guitars (Karl Sanders and Dallas Toler-Wade), and bass guitar played by the two guitarists. The drumming is mind-bogglingly demonic, the guitar riffing carves both giant stones and diamonds seamlessly, while the melodically complex leads creep up from behind to take you for races and cruises to and through the stratosphere. Everybody plays mercilessly, but with a great degree of finesse. Middle-eastern melodic sensibilities and instruments are used very tastefully to evoke dark images of ancient Egypt. The orchestrated vocals, led by Sanders and additional vocalist Jon Vesano, with contributions by Wade and Laureano, are predominantly of the deep guttural variety and as such are crucial to the band’s enticingly grotesque aesthetic. Anybody who says “I like the music but it would be better without the growling” is missing the point, and anybody who highlights the vocals to criticize the band for being “non-musical” (translation: not conventionally melodic) or “not for everyone” has misperceived a core virtue as a vice. Listening to the music is enough to tell you that these guys are extremely dedicated, but if you need more convincing check out the fine liner notes by Sanders explaining the disturbing events and myths of ancient Egypt that inspired each song, and often touching on how he relates them to his perceptions of modern life and society.When I first sampled this in a CD store it took me about a minute to decide that it was too overloaded with dissonance. When I came back home I couldn’t stop thinking about what I heard and didn’t hear, so I took two hours out of a weekend just to go back and buy it. After one dedicated listening session I was in awe of its grandeur. After the second spin I was hooked. Every subsequent spin has brought increased clarity and revealed new nuances.If you are interested in exploring the outer limits of musical imagination and intensity, ‘In Their Darkened Shrines’ is one meticulously crafted work of devastating art that you must not miss. After this, you also must buy its comparably monumental predecessor, ‘Black Seeds of Vengeance,’ while I check out ‘In The Beginning’ and ‘Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka.’ That’s presuming you are further behind than I am, of course.

    Posted on February 18, 2010