Albums You Should Own: Nile – In Their Darkened Shrines
[Edit: Our newest writer Robert is back with more. Robert turns out to be a massive fan of Nile and sets himself to the task of reviewing the band’s 2002 album In Their Darkened Shrines. It is the start of a new series: Albums You Should Own, in which he will review the classics of (Extreme) Metal.]
Origin: South Carolina, US
Release year: 2002
Genre: Death Metal
One of the most listenable, best-produced yet brutally technical and frantic albums in Death Metal, Nile’s In Their Darkened Shrines, remains fresh and accessible today despite being a decade old this year. The album built on the solid foundations Nile had crafted through previous releases Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka and Black Seeds of Vengeance and cemented their place at the top of the Death Metal game, combining breakneck riffing, blastbeats and eerie instrumental passages in equal measure – all tied together by Nile’s signature Egyptian themes and lyrics.
I’ll start by admitting that I’m a huge Nile fan. In fact, Nile were the first Death Metal band I got into back in the day, after doing the Black Metal circuit. I purchased my first Nile CD (Black Seeds of Vengeance) at the tender age of 15, a little over a decade ago, on a school trip. I remember thinking the music was brutal but that I had a hard time distinguishing through the tinny earphones on my Sony Walkman (old school!) just what the hell was going on most of the time. This was nothing like the Emperor, Darkthrone and Immortal I had been listening to previously. Each song seemed unrelenting. A wave of brutality with the odd interlude thrown in to give your ears a short rest and allow them to truly appreciate the next pummelling. I’ll admit that to my untrained 15 year-old ears, it sounded like a band practice; with each member playing as hard and fast as they could but each playing something different. The music created was so multifaceted that it took a number of listens before I was able to discern different passages and individual instruments. It was only after many listens that I was able to appreciate the effort as a whole. However, once I ‘got’ it, this album became one of the constants in my CD player rotation. Even today when I am shuffling my itunes library to make room for new music on my ipod I always make sure I chuck this album on. It really is a classic.
So, what’s the big fuss all about then, eh? Well, my personal bias aside, the album showcases a band in full magisterial stride, at the top of their game writing original yet brutal and technical music, In Their Darkened Shrines (ITDS) is arguably Nile’s masterpiece. Where some Death Metal can feel slightly rushed in an effort to shoehorn as much brutality and technicality into one song as possible, ITDS has a confident and effortless swagger about it. The album has it all; thick slabs of chuggy guitar and middle eastern harmonies, blistering solos and lead, blastbeats, inventive cymbal work, dual visceral vocal attack – hell, what more could you want! Are you still reading this!? Go out and buy it, idiot! Ahem. One of the main draws to this album, however, is that it manages to be heavy as fuck yet still very listenable. ITDS is littered with pulsating, groove laden sections that serve to tie together the more erratic and harder to follow passages. The production is clean and in my opinion ITDS presents one of the better produced percussion tracks of any recent Death Metal album.
In terms of songs, The Blessed Dead remains a staple of Nile live shows (usually the opener) and sets the tone for the rest of the album. Execration Text is a tasty short track that still contains one of my favourite solos of all time and serves to pick up the tempo before the slow, crushing opening of Sarcophagus drops. Unas Slayer of the Gods completely owns. End of. That song is pretty much Nile in microcosm. A lengthy piece that spans and demonstrates Nile’s creativity and originality as a band. If you listen to only one song, choose that one. I Whisper in the Ear of the Dead ambles along nicely with some fantastic grooves before ushering in the punchy Wind of Horus and the final chapters of the album, of which Invocation to Seditious Heresy stands out most for me for its impressive solo and nice harmonised groove with double bass hammering away in the outro.
The originality on display here should really be commended. Nile’s unique mix of ancient subject matter and modern brutality stands the test of time and, a full ten years on, has yet to be imitated. There really isn’t another band out there that sound anything like Nile.
My Grade: 9.5/10
Buy this when:
- you consider yourself a fan of Death Metal
- you would like a change from the conventional themes and subject matter of Death Metal