Live Review: Nile, Immolation, Krisiun, Dreaming Dead, Nighfire @ Sonar (2010.01.15)

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  1. MP3: Nile – Sacrifice Unto Sebek
  2. MP3: Nile – Lashed to the Slave Stick

Nile played one of the best metal shows I heard in the past year at Sonar two Fridays ago. I am deaf writing this. If you are an adult with a job that requires hearing, or if you are a human being who has ears, you may want to follow these tips for preventing deafness at metal shows:

First, stuff something in your ears. You might try ear-plugs, available for a dollar at most clubs. However if the show is good like this one was, you will start head-banging and shaking your freshly cultivated crop of almost shoulder-length hair to and fro and the earplugs will fall out. You will not notice this at first, and by the time you do notice, it will be too late: What sounded before like a circular saw slicing through your mind will now sound like cottage cheese mixed with cornmeal mush. Use wadded up toilet paper instead. It works great, just make sure not to stuff it in too far. The second tip is do not remove the wadded up toilet paper from your ears.

Now on to the music. The lineup was all death metal, with most of the acts leaning in the technical direction. Doors were at six and I got there before seven thinking I would be fine to catch all the bands. I missed all but four minutes of Nightfire from Delaware, which sucks because they were great: A really tight precise sound, technical drumming and complex, clean, spidery guitars. What I heard reminded me a little bit of early Psycroptic and a little bit of Decrepit Birth. They have a demo on their website that they recorded in one night and it sounds great.

Dreaming Dead on the Sonar club stage also had a good clean guitar sound. I especially dug Elizabeth Elliot’s vocals, which have a high black metal edge. I started listening to all the songs on their website, and I kept feeling like it was too straight ahead and melodic, and then they would go someplace really cool and catchy. I’m still listening. Krisiun and Immolation both play what I would call straight ahead death metal, i.e. metal that sounds sort of like Deicide and Morbid Angel. Immolation especially had good stage energy from the get go.

Nile killed. Within the genre of death metal I most enjoy bands that are more complex and technical. Within technical death metal, I most enjoy bands like Origin and Nile who achieve harshness and intensity as well as technical precision. For me these two bands define the pocket of brutal technical death metal. Without really deviating from their signature sounds they make challenging, appealing music that rewards repeated listening, built on simple but well developed musical ideas. Basically, good songwriting with the incredibly deep, abrasive, dissonant sounds that you will develop a taste for if you keep listening to extreme metal.

Key elements of the Nile sound include: extremely detuned guitars (to low B flat or A), warbly high guitar parts with lots of harmonics, very simple and melodic low phrases punctuated by (or developed into) extremely fast and complicated riffs, and lots of Egyptian-inspired Phrygian sounds.

Lyrically Nile is about ancient Egypt, especially ancient Egyptian religion. The night’s set included “Permitting the Noble Dead to Descend To the Underworld” (amazing), “Hittite Dung Incantation,” and “Papyrus Containing the Spell to Preserve Its Possessor Against Attacks From He Who Is in the Water” (amazing). You’ll have to buy the album to hear “Chapter of Obeisance Before Giving Breath to the Inert One in the Presence of the Crescent Shaped Horns.”

Drummer George Kollias has helped shaped the Nile sound since 2005’s Annihilation of the Wicked. Machine-like precision and consistency seems to be the guiding norm behind a lot of extreme metal drumming. By contrast, Kollias’ drumming, although definitely not imprecise, has a natural, jazzy feel that somehow meshes well with the brutality of Nile. Buy his DVD if you want to learn how to use the kick pedal very fast. Nile’s live guitar sound is really good…loud, intense, but clear. Sanders and Dallas Toller-Wade both use a lot of pinch harmonics not only in solos but also in the main themes of the songs. High sounds (e.g. solos) often get lost in live metal performances. Nile have perfected their live tone and everything came through almost crystal clear and made everyone look at their friends with a look that was like “oh shit unbelievable!”

Well, I did that. I was not paying that much attention to what everyone else was doing, but I hope they were enjoying it half as much as I did.

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