In two short years time NILE has established itself as a potent musical entity so vital and massive that they live up to the stature of the river from which they take their name. With just one record, a few EP's and one world tour under their belt, NILE has raised the bar for death metal bands musically, lyrically and conceptually. Couple this with their precedent-setting live performances, and you have one of the genre's brightest hopes for the new millennium. Now, with Black Seeds of Vengeance, NILE stand poised to cement their place in the pantheon of metal's elite.
Formed in 1993 by Karl Sanders (guitar/vocals), Chief Spires (bass/vocals), and Pete Hammoura (drums), NILE wasted little time combining their interest in Egyptian history, culture and lore with the ferocity of modern death metal and a symphonic approach to songwriting and arrangement. They hammered out a balanced attack that fused unique, technical death metal with Middle Eastern tones and a lyrical approach inspired by Sanders' interpretation of ancient Egyptian inscriptions, temple carvings, papyri, hieroglyphics and tomb paintings depicting ancient battles, rituals and religious ceremonies.
Each following year brought a new recording, each of which marked a large step forward in their musical evolution, and enabled NILE to further entrench themselves in an underground that received them with open arms. Things really began to gel in 1996 when, after recording and shopping three new songs, they landed a deal with upstart label Visceral Productions and began recording their debut full-length in addition to adding second guitarist Dallas Toler-Wade.
However, the deal would not last as Visceral folded in late 1997. Relapse Records swiftly stepped into the picture and, after hearing the record and witnessing the band's live show, a deal was struck and the two prepared for the release of NILE's debut full-length Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka.
Amongst The Catacombs of Nephren-Ka was a monumental testimony of power that took the metal world by storm. Vicious guitar riffs lashed out among tremendous drum blasts, frenzied guitar solos and a powerful three-vocalist onslaught. The savage attack was adorned with exotic instrumentation and symphonic Middle Eastern passages and chants to form an all-out assault of the likes not heard before. Amongst...was an adventurous and awesome piece of work and praise for their accomplishment was quick to follow.
NILE commenced a grueling eighteen-month world tour shortly upon the records release: one that would see them crisscross the states numerous times before being invited to accompany Morbid Angel on their world tour. The band, excited by the prospect of reaching new people, seeing new places and simply playing their music, unleashed an incredible live show on an unsuspecting public. So driven by passion and hell bent to deliver on Sanders' promise to "play every single note as if it were going to be our last [and] give every bit of strength we have within us every time we play," NILE converted thousands of new fans to their distinctive sound with what has become one of the most celebrated live performances the metal world has seen in years. By the time the tour ended with their jaw-dropping European debut at Dynamo '99 and subsequent European Tour, NILE were already being touted as one of metal's most ambitious and fastest rising stars.
Upon their return home in August '99, Sanders and co. began work assembling and arranging the pieces and ideas that had been brewing since '97 (when the band completed recording Nephren-Ka). Encouraged by the enthusiastic worldwide reception that the band's exploration of Egyptian and Middle Eastern culture and exotic sounds received, and driven by the need, in Sanders' words "...to create a massive record, a kind of masterpiece," they began laying the groundwork for an epic sophomore effort.
The writing didn't come easy. So ambitious and lofty were their ideas that it became an obsession that took up all their waking moments. Sanders spent every night composing, arranging, re-arranging and piecing together all the movements like a symphony orchestra. The lyrics alone took him almost a year as he sought to integrate them seamlessly with the music "making the combination of both form one unified piece, with each serving the other and working together to achieve the same thing." The wildly technical composition Multitude of Foes also took Toler-Wade a year to work out.
The band entered their second home--Columbia, SC's Soundlab Studios--once again in May with longtime producer Bob Moore to attempt to capture its most sprawling, ambitious work to date. Black Seeds of Vengeance not only sidesteps the dreaded sophomore slump, but it realizes the fruits of their intense and arduous songwriting labors and places them in the upper echelon of metal rank and file.
Black Seeds of Vengeance is a relentless, scathing death metal assault that builds off the energy and atmosphere of Amongst... and presents NILE's sound and fury in a slightly streamlined, yet even more epic and colorful light. Violent passages of hyper-grinding fury explode from ominous, deathly tranquility as the words and music paint vivid tales of battle, conquest, domination, subjugation, war and religious ritual. Intricate symphonic passages comprised of African choirs and such diverse instrumentation as tablas, tempuras, sitars, gongs, kettle drums, Tibetan Doom horns and acoustic guitars wind their way through the muscular compositions, giving the songs an almost cinematic feel.
Sanders elaborates: "There's a lot more color and variation in these pieces than Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka. There's more of the extra instrumentation that was very sparingly used on Nephren-Ka and they [the orchestrated passages] are integral, more highly-developed parts of songs as opposed to just decoration."
"There are elements to the songwriting and construction that are more streamlined, yet it has grown at the same time. It's not stripped down or bare bones though. The things that give the songs the epic build and feel are just placed more effectively than ever before."
"Nephren-Ka in comparison is a very straightforward, brutal kind of record. There are probably people who are going to say, 'Why don't they just go ahead and be as simply brutal as they were?' Seeds... is brutal but it goes some other places too."
Songs such as Masturbating The War God, The Black Flame, Chapter For Transforming Into A Snake and the unbelievable To Dream of Ur accentuate Sanders' claims. "Masturbating The War God is, to me, completely NILE. It tells an epic tale and is completely symphonic in a death metal sense and at one point almost Kashmir-like in its build to the climax. There are things in there that no one else would do except for us," states Sanders.
In addition to the grandiose Egyptian elements and phrasing the band also worked to, and succeeded in, capturing a magical element. "In ancient Egypt, magic was almost as important as war and the actual fighting," stated Sanders, "and there are definite magical elements to The Black Flame. It's all very magical--the Egyptian process of saying something, writing it and then doing it. So it shall be written. So it shall be done."
With Black Seeds of Vengeance scheduled for release in September, and with months of rehearsal under their belt, the NILE touring machine is set to embark upon another staggering worldwide offensive. The campaign begins in July where NILE will debut Black Seeds of Vengeance on a North American co-headlining tour with CANNIBAL CORPSE. A European offensive will follow in the late autumn months, after which the band will hit the road for the remainder of 2000 and 2001.