Black Seeds of Vengeance
Released: 2000, Relapse Records
Reviewer: Michael De Los Muertos
Sophomore efforts are tricky stuff. A great band that blows the world away with a debut faces a tall order for their second effort – they must not only please the fans of their first album, but must silence the naysayers who will inevitably claim it was a flash in the pan. Such a task Nile faces with their second full-length, following 1998’s Amongst The Catacombs of Nephren-Ka, a brilliant, innovative, but curiously inaccessible album (to some).
Thankfully, this obscenely talented band has risen to the challenge. Black Seeds of Vengeance has written all over it the hallmarks of, if not a classic, at least the stepping-stone to a long and prosperous career – if they don’t rest on their laurels. Since everyone will be judging Black Seeds based on the strength of Catacombs, I’ll start there. What you probably liked about Catacombs – the heaviness, the brutality, and the odd twist of the Middle Eastern and Egyptian themes surfacing throughout – are all here. However, Black Seeds goes the extra step by truly weaving these elements into a coherent whole. Catacombs had a lot of cool Egyptian-sounding intros, but the music itself was super-brutal death metal only slightly elevated above the ordinary (in my opinion). Black Seeds finally gets the melding concept down.
You won’t notice it at first. The intro and even the title track seem left over from Catacombs days, but the fireworks really start with the third track, “Defiling the Gates of Ishtar.” Not only are most of the chords in the eerie downtuned style of Middle Eastern music, but movements of an almost unearthly-sounding nature weave in and out of the body of the song. The slow intro to the next track, “The Black Flame,” sounds like vultures feasting lazily on bloated carcasses in the Saharan sun. Thudding, plodding, doom-metal guitars give way finally to evil, blistering grind. The vocals can only be described as horrifying (in a good way). After this abuse, the fifth track, which is called (deep breath!) “Libation Unto the Shades who Lurk in the Shadows of the Temple of Anhur,” is slow, acoustic, and instrumental, but is one of the eeriest sounding pieces of music you’ll hear this year. After that it’s more well-deserved high-octane death metal punishment, with “Nas Akhu Khan She En Absiu” and “To Dream of Ur” particular highlights, the latter being quite possibly the best track on the album.
While hard-core death fans, particularly those into complex pay-attention, you’ll-be-tested-on-this kind of metal, will probably take to this CD immediately, the album will probably grow on just about everybody given enough listens. The intricate secrets locked within the music will take a good number of listens to unlock. You will certainly get your money’s worth!
Nile have achieved something rare in the metal world: true, creative originality. They planted (forgive the expression) a promising seed with Catacombs, but Black Seeds of Vengeance shows them flowering to their true potential. And, if you happen to have an Ancient Cultures test the next morning, the jewel-case insert – which is damn near a dissertation on Egyptology – will stand you in good stead!