NILE, Festivals of Atonement (1995, Anubis Music)

The skull:
Straight outta some book Karl Sanders found at the library, with the yellow cranked to maximum, for some reason. Sure, it’s a nice looking skull, big and dumb, nestled in a cozy niche, but what does it have to do with festivals of atonement? Maybe festivals in ancient Egypt were very different from what I’m imagining.

The music:
This was Nile’s first self-released EP, and as such, they sound even more like Morbid Angel than they did when they became death metal famous. There are some intros with the eastern scales that Karl Sanders later made his stock in trade, but in the main, Morbid Angel + Suffocation more or less sums this up. I dig the dirgey “Wrought”, which features some passably good semi-melodic vocals and a rather ridiculous synth flute solo, and the equally draggy “Extinction” is also pretty cool. The faster numbers don’t interest me as much, but at least Nile at this point in time weren’t obsessed with proving how fast or evil (or whatever) they were, which increasingly became the case with their albums. This is just not my speed when it comes to death metal, but for such an early recording, it’s pretty obvious that this was a band who had their shit together far more than most bands do at that stage. This EP was later reissued with 1997’s Ramses Bringer of War as In the Beginning, and nowadays the band affects (for some reason) to describe their Egyptophile music as “Ithyphallic metal,” which is insanely pretentious (and borderline nonsensical), but if you just read that as “Ichthyphallic metal,” it’s all worth it.
— Friar Johnsen

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