with Ex Deo, Svart Crown and Pestifier
at The Garage, London
10th September 2013
Review by Lee Carter
Photography by Sabrina Dersel
There is a slight chill setting in around The Garage as September’s autumnal cool begins to set in around London; becoming most apparent with the quantity of Nile fans queuing outside donning customary hoodies and jackets.
Little did we all know that the warmer choice of attire would soon prove problematic as the evening served up a scorching example in death metal.
Not long after doors open and the early-birds are settled with drink in-hand, Belgium’s Pestifier take to the stage to open proceedings. Ploughing through select cuts from their Ultimhate Records debut Age Of Disgrace with abandon, their set is solid (if a little unspectacular) but nevertheless serves as an ideal appetiser to the later acts.
Despite a formative crowd and several failed attempts to elicit movement amongst those gathered, the musicianship and performance on display excelled; having formed in 2004, they’ve honed it to a fine point which belies the fact they are only at the debut album stage.
Further to this, the lead guitar work of Antoine Paterka and Emerson Devresse was particularly impressive – creative while balancing melody and shred. Continued performances like this and the band (completed by twins Adrien and Phil Gustin – bass and drums respectively – and Jérôme Bernard on vocals) can expect good things.
French black/death metallers Svart Crown are up next and bring a slightly rougher edge to the death metal heard previous – their sound comes across as more voracious and rabid.
There’s psuedo-rock’n’roll looseness to the performance and that’s no bad thing as it ups the intensity, which is matched only by frontman JB Le Bail and Ludovic Veyssière’s maniacal energy – barking, grimacing and encouraging the crowd to fire the pit up and sing along.
The Listenable Records natives delicately mix tracks from this year’s offering, Profane, with cuts from their two previous albums to great effect – the set mixes well and their transitions between old and new are seamless.
The trajectory for the evening ascends with each act.
Napalm Records’ Ex Deo follow and the spectacle they put on is something to behold.
With Roman military banners flashing the revered Legion XIII Gemina insignia adorning either side of Max Duhamel’s kit, the band emerge attired in Roman military armour emblazoned with XIII and fly into their debut album Romulus’ “Legio XIII” and never look back.
Maurizio Iacono (of Kataklysm fame) marshals the entire building like the commander of Rome that he appears to be, alongside fellow members of Kataklysm (and Dano Apekian of Ashes of Eden on bass).
Iacono’s delivery is astounding and his performance, complete with prayers to Jupiter and the gods of Rome, commanding gestures and Roman salutes, just makes for a thoroughly enjoyable show. The above is no more so apparent than in the “Kneel!” refrain from “I, Caligvla” (off of their recent offering to the gods of the same name), though it was a shame that no one did actually kneel (though most were hailing Iacono as Imperator by headbanging and moshing, so that seems equally as good!)
They continue to mix their set from both albums – a perfect balance of melody and heaviness – all the way up to a rousing farewell of “Romulus” where the crowd respond with fervour. Overall, a great performance and one that carries a degree of pomp with the stage show, yet it just seems necessary to bring the full Ex Deo package.
The stage show might not be for everyone, but it truly enriches the experience. Hell, it would be great to see them make their stage show even bigger – as a death metal celebration of one of the mightiest empires to have ever existed, it would be awesome for Ex Deo to be able to expand that stage show to match it. Nevertheless, the gods were smiling down on them in Londinium.
As the night wore and the throng of bodies increased inside The Garage, so did the heat and it reached fever pitch by the time Greenville’s Nile took to the stage.
In contrast to their historically-themed contemporaries previous, their stage show is considerably less grand but what they lack in stage show and props, they more than make up for in sheer brutality and precision.
As a true statement of intent, nothing quite sets the stall out than beginning with the blistering “Sacrifice Unto Sebek” and from there on in, it doesn’t let up.
Karl Sanders, Dallas Toller-Wade and bassist Todd Ellis growl, grunt, scream and shred away with aplomb amidst the damn-near dizzyingly velocious drumming of George Kollias that invoke the spirits of Ra, Osiris, Horus and Apep – where they then cast them aside with Those Whom The Gods Detest’s opener “Kafir!”, all while demonstrating an astonishing degree of precision.
The fervour that greets each song announcement demonstrates the fans’ absolute devotion to these purveyors in Ancient Egyptian mythology – the pit fully opened up and never relented until the final low A5 chord rung out at the end of the night.
With seven albums behind them, the band incorporates songs right from the beginning and all the way up to last year’s At The Gate Of Sethu, with three from the latest effort sitting well in the middle of the set.
One of the criticisms that met …Sethu was the odd change in guitar tone from the roaring cacophony that all Nile fans loved, to something that was crisp and clear, yet considerably thinner. So it was both interesting and a joy to hear the small triumvirate from …Sethu sit so well and sound absolutely crushing amongst old classics – the crowd didn’t discriminate and reacted to all with horns and headbanging.
Yet it was the old classics that were the highlights of the evening; “The Blessed Dead”, “Sarcophagus”, “Unas The Slayer Of The Gods” and the evening closer “Black Seeds Of Vengeance” garnered an incredible reaction with the crowd roaring along with Messrs Karl, Dallas and Todd.
Even in between songs, they continued to stoke the crowd up and even quipping about the heat, as well as their preference of hearing a chant of “Ni-le!” as opposed to “Sla-yer!”.
It would have been nice to have seen some more tracks from Ithyphallic or Annihilation Of The Wicked (particularly “Cast Down The Heretic” from the latter) but aside from that nitpick, there was nothing really wrong with the set. The sound inside The Garage, much like it had been all evening, was outstanding – the solos were audible and crisp, the bass a slam to the chest and every aspect of the kit clear and audible (rather a necessity for Kollias, given his propensity to use an extensive array of cymbals and complex fills).
The pristine sound and performance all came to a head at the epic finale of “Black Seeds Of Vengeance” – with wall-to-wall chants of the song’s title amidst a sea of horns, it was like bearing witness to an unprecedented (in terms of Ancient Egyptian rule) four Pharaohs commanding their slaves to do their bidding. And so they did.
As the final chord rung low and faded, Nile left the stage to a rapturous applause. A fitting end to a stellar performance and an excellent show. If death metal’s your persuasion, treat yourself and your ears to a Nile gig – the gods command it.
Setlist: Dusk Falls Upon The Temple Of The Serpent On The Mount Of Sunrise Sacrifice Unto Sebek Defiling The Gates Of Ishtar Kafir! Hittite Dung Incantation Enduring The Eternal Molestation Of Flame The Inevitable Degradation Of Flesh Supreme Humanism Of Megalomania The Blessed Dead The Howling Of The Jinn Ithyphallic Sarcophagus Smashing The Antiu Unas The Slayer Of The Gods Black Seeds Of Vengeance