Coming off the masterful “Black Seeds of Vengeance,” Nile have returned with another ambitious project. “In Their Darkened Shrines” again showcases the unbridled creativity and awe-inspiring technicality that make Nile such a unique and excellent band. With their innovative dynamics and heavy use of Egyptian themes, Nile have managed to bring something extremely valuable to death metal: a fresh sound. Their lyrics often read more like they were written by a bunch of history majors than by a killer death metal band, but Nile are dead serious when it comes to creating crushingly heavy music. I’ll admit a was a little nervous when I read about the departure of two members of the “Black Seeds of Vengeance” lineup, most notably massively skilled drummer Pete Hammoura. However, I was relieved to find that new skinsman Tony Laureano does an excellent job of filling his predecessor’s kit. Perhaps the highest compliment I can pay to Tony is that if I didn’t know better I’d swear Pete hadn’t left. He manages to match Pete fill for fill and blastbeat for blastbeat, and that’s no small task. And Karl Sanders and Dallas Toler-Wade are once again rock-solid on guitars. Although the first four songs on “In Their Darkened Shrines” are all strong, the album really kicks into high gear with the almost-indescribable “Unas, Slayer of the Gods.” Nile had shown somewhat of an inclination toward epic songwriting on “BSOV,” and that tendency culminates with “Unas.” At more than eleven and a half bruising minutes, the song is chock full of tempo changes, stunning musical interludes, and the band’s trademark Egyptian/Middle-Eastern elements. The lyrics, meanwhile, tell a frightening tale of an Egyptian Pharaoh’s legend in Nile’s typically foreboding style. It’s just an amazing song, one of the best in death-metal history.Although I chose to single out “Unas, Slayer of the Gods,” it’s important to note that every song on “In Their Darkened Shrines” is solid at the very least. Some may take a little time to get going, but this isn’t supposed to be easy listening. With some patience and attention, the payoff will come, and when it does it’s more than worth the wait. I’m trying to be really careful with my five-star ratings, but the only reason this album doesn’t get one is that the vocals don’t guite reach the levels attained by the music. Still, “In Their Darkened Shrines” gets my highest four-star rating, and my utmost recommendation for ALL metal fans.