Not content with blowing the dust off a previously stagnating death metal scene with their unique amalgamation of Egyptian/Middle Eastern scales and modes into a blisteringly technical, ferociously paced death metal template with their initial release, in the years since Nile have also proved themselves to be an amazingly consistent act as regards to the quality of their output. Their last album, Ithyphallic, may have seemed to some to be something of a disappointment, but that is only when regarded as part of Nile‘s output, as opposed to the death metal landscape as a whole. In some ways, Nile‘s consistency is working against them – their initial flurry of releases, from Amongst The Catacombs Of Nephren-Ka to In Their Darkened Shrines, were such game-changing, landmark death metal releases, that anything Nile now releases that doesn’t instantly reduce your bones to dust in the face of its awesomeness feels ever so slightly underwhelming.
This attitude sells the band short, however – sure, since Annihilation Of The Wicked, Nile do seem to have settled quite comfortably into their formula. But the fact is, that it’s their formula, one which no other band would presumably dare to imitate, had they even the instrumental skill. Those Whom The Gods Detest, then, is another iron-clad classic album from a band who seem incapable of releasing a substandard record, whose initial impact may be dulled, perversely, by the audience’s familiarity with just how outstanding these guys are. Their knack for epic, catchy chorus lines in the midst of structurally winding, epic-length compositions is as finely-honed as ever – witness the brilliant centrepiece of the title track, mixing the subsonic, rumbling growls we’ve become accustomed to with a melodic backing vocal line, firing the line “We are those whom the gods detest” straight at your cerebral cortex, there to lodge for days, or the mantra-like chant of “Arra, Arra, Arra… Dagon, Dagon, Dagon” during ‘The 4th Arra Of Dagon’. George Kollias’ drumming is as breathtakingly precise as it is fluid and dexterous, combining astonishingly rapid blastbeats with thunderous rolling fills. Dallas Toller-Wade and Karl Sanders continue to hold their throne as perhaps death metal’s most skilled guitar duo – the sweep-picking hooks during ‘Iskander D’hul Karnon’ alone merit mention for combining technical playing with a memorable melody. The production, courtesy of Neil Kernon, is also predictably excellent, giving the guitars both crushing weight for the lumbering chugging sections and a soaring, keening quality during the ever-present tremolo-picked upper-register string-bends that have become Nile’s signature move.
As mentioned above, pretty much the only thing standing in Nile‘s way at this point is the fact that we as listeners have become so accustomed to the band’s excellence that another excellent album seems almost par for the course. There are hints of over-familiarity from time to time during Those Whom The Gods Detest, however – every now and again, a riff springs up that you could swear is a modified version of a section from a track off In Their Darkened Shrines – but there have been subtle refinements to the formula. Between-song interludes have largely been banished, in favour of mid-album instrumental breather ‘Yezd Desert Ghul Ritual in the Abandoned Towers of Silence’, for instance. At the end of the day, though, the fact remains that Those Whom The Gods Detest is another example of Nile’s total mastery of their craft – while it may sound pretty damned similar to Ithyphallic and Annihilation Of The Wicked, it has to be asked considering the quality of those albums whether that’s such a bad thing.