Released: 2009, Nuclear Blast
South Carolina’s Nile returneth to the fore with their latest chunk of downtuned murky goodness, and the many fans who fellated ITHYPHALLIC on its release (myself included) in 2007 will no doubt be gagging to get their claws on THOSE WHOM THE GODS DETEST – anticipating one of the death metal albums of the year.
Looking back, I can’t think why I thought so highly of ITHYPHALLIC. Granted, it was a solid album with good playing but subpar production; it was more the excitement of having a new Nile album after having only got into death metal less than a year earlier. Three years down the road and a couple of hundred death metal albums later, I think I’m in a better position to have an opinion on THOSE WHOM THE GODS DETEST.
It is generally accepted (although opinion widely differs) that Nile’s creative and musical peak was between IN THEIR DARKENED SHRINES and ANNIHILATION OF THE WICKED. Fans will find much of the same elements on THOSE WHOM THE GODS DETEST that made these albums classic. The compelling and machine-gun drumming, the flurrying left hand shreddery and the grinding right hand heaviness. The vaguely Egyptian/Middle Eastern themes are present and alive, and vividly outlined on the first track itself, ‘Kafir!’, just in case you had been on another planet and needed reminding of Nile’s selected musical niche (incidentally, the heavy-handed use of Muslim prayer calls or ‘azan’ on ‘Kafir!’ reminds me of Vital Remains’ ‘Where Is Your God Now’ on ICONS OF EVIL).
So. What’s the catch?
I’ve endured their ‘atmospheric’ interludes on previous albums, heck, I’ve even enjoyed a few of them. But even the DEATH METAL on this album is, for the lack of a better word, boring! This saddens a Nile fan of three plus years, who worships ANNIHILATION OF THE WICKED and THE BLACK SEEDS OF VENGEANCE. The production is no doubt miles better than their previous album – you can hear all the instruments loud and clear, and Dallas and Karl’s vocals never sounded better. But give me the murky stifling atmosphere of VENGEANCE or the death-like claustrophobia of CATACOMBS any day. TWTGD sounds like a modern death metal album – something, god forgive me, Cannibal Corpse would release – and in a year of some stellar death metal releases, Nile will have to overcome some stiff competition for fans’ ears and wallets.
The album doesn’t grab me straight off the bat, but that’s okay. Nile’s releases have tended to grow on me – they’re slightly less accessible than your average headcrusher type album. On fifth listen, it’s still not grabbing me, and on the ninth and tenth, still nothing stands out. The brutality and evil and murk is there, but not on the level of BLACK SEEDS OF VENGEANCE. There’s some catchiness and melody which would elevate a normal band to above average, but when Nile’s already done an album of ANNIHILATION’s sheer irresistibility, it’s hard to match. For outright ambition and epicness, TWTGD pales in comparison to IN THEIR DARKENED SHRINES. And I swear that the first line of the title track ‘Those Whom The Gods Detest’ reminds me of ‘Lashed To A Slave Stick’…
It’s not a bad album by any means – Nile are too long in the tooth to do that unless they pull a Cryptopsy or something. The drumming is excellent as always, and I especially like the addition of clean vocals on a couple of the tracks. It’s just a disappointing album compared to what has gone before. But I’ll tell you what, I’ll give it another 30 listens and get back to you. Watch this space!