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In Their Darkened Shrines
September 2002
Released: n/a, Relapse
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Michael De Los Muertos

I never get any respect. If you don’t visit our message board, you may not know what kind of reputation I have--not only as the merciless fascistic topic-closer and banner-of-troublemakers, but as the incorrigible and disturbingly obsessive power metal junkie. Yes, I freely admit that I recently went to a Renaissance Fair, bought a Viking drinking horn and got my picture taken with a guy dressed up like an elf while wearing a Rhapsody T-shirt. But yet here I sit listening to the new Nile disc and thinking about how much death metal in general kicks ass, and how in the last four years Nile has truly opened the door to a new wing of the death metal mansion, which so many have complained has been looking tired and monotonous lately. With IN THEIR DARKENED SHRINES Nile is now 3 for 3, and this is coming from the power metal guy. So give me some credit for taste, dammit!

This, Nile’s third album, is not as brilliant, ground-breaking or utterly breathtaking as their 2000 opus BLACK SEEDS OF VENGEANCE. However, IN THEIR DARKENED SHRINES is solid, artistically and creatively rendered, competently written, played, produced and mixed, and is a very enjoyable death metal album. More importantly, Nile’s third success in a row, I think, marks them as a truly stand-out death metal band. This album is a little slow to hit its stride, with the first two tracks giving us a lot of the Nile sound but not a whole lot of the magic. That all changes with “Sarcophagus.” Gut-churning vocals, wailing guitars, extremely technical drumming and several successive movements of innovative and interesting song-writing and musical structuring bring us right back to the forefront of the important ground the band broke with their debut, AMONGST THE CATACOMBS OF NEPHREN-KA. The rest of the album continues to impress, moving through shimmering waves of speed (“Khefitu Asar Butchiu”), eerie Middle Eastern melancholy (“Unas Slayer of the Gods”), violent and plaintive anguish (“Wind of Horus”) and various other emotional states reflective of the dark side of human civilization. Toward the end of the album we get a martial-sounding anthem of pure evil, the aptly named “Invitation to Seditious Heresy,” and the plodding but epic-sounding instrumental “Ruins” which is a perfect way to finish off this disc. It’s certainly an exhausting journey.

Some fans have been critical of Nile’s perceived reliance on “gimmicky” intros evocative of their Ancient Egyptian themes. Those fans will be happy to know that there aren’t a lot of computer-compiled intros on the new album, and in fact, while still present, the Egyptian themes stay mostly in the background. Even Nile’s CD jewel case insert, which on BLACK SEEDS OF VENGEANCE I commented two years ago was like a doctorate dissertation on Egyptology, has been toned down this time. While I haven’t minded the Egyptian stuff (or even the intros) at all, I hope that the reduced presence of them this time around will get more people talking about the merits of Nile’s music standing by itself. Certainly there’s a lot to talk about on that score.

This is much closer to a “typical” death metal album than BLACK SEEDS OF VENGEANCE was, and I suspect the band was not reaching quite so far to be progressive this time around. However, this album is still worth your while, not just for Nile fans, but for all death metal fans. Definitely check it out. And it wouldn’t hurt to spread the word that even the power metal people like it!

Next review: » Nile - Ithyphallic
Previous review: » Nile - Annihilation of the Wicked

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