DB HOF NO. 52
The making of Nile’s “Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka”
Nile didn’t play cribbage with the Lord of all Fevers and Plagues. Entrails were never ripped from an unfortunate virgin’s cunt as far as we know. And efforts to spawn a caco-daemon stalled when the South Carolinians realized the cuneiform tablet they purchased from Abdul Alhazred featured only a partial invocation. So, what precisely did Nile accomplish? In between sweaty band practices, long stays at the library and a healthy appetite for the wicked and arcane, they envisioned a darker, more astute form of death.
While the two demos and two EPs clearly demonstrated Nile’s nascent potential—the Ramses Bringer of War EP is a particularly important document—it wasn’t until debut full-length Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka, where complex antediluvian guitar lines, moonstruck solos, battering blast beats and barbaric vocals smashed regression, stereotypes and expectations, that the trio put the war machine fully into motion. When Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka landed in the spring of 1998, it immediately caused concern. From old guard scenesters, arms crossed in stagnation, to fellow bands, Nile’s well-researched Egyptian angle, world music inclusions (dumbek drums, Turkish gongs), Classical aspirations (“Ramses Bringer of War”), and colorful album art was altogether foreign. The ritualistic mid-section to “Opening of the Mouth” raised more than a few eyebrows.
In reality, Karl Sanders, Chief Spires and Pete Hammoura’s key objective was to brutalize. With extreme prejudice. That’s how the militant pharaohs of ancient Egypt would’ve done it. Forget the real Tibetan monk choir, human skull drums and thigh bone flutes. The embalmed meat of Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka is in noggin-bashers “Smashing the Antiu,” “Barra Edinazzu,” “Serpent Headed Mask” and the “The Howling of the Jinn.” Eventually, Nile and this draconian debut charmed the toughies and purists. Not through sleight of hand or record label PR witchcraft, but incessant touring and feverish word of mouth. Death metal’s new kings weren’t from New York City or Tampa—they originated from a mid-sized city in the foothills of the Appalachians.
Decibel isn’t inducting Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka into the Hall of Fame because Nile now lord over most—even those they once eagerly supported. Actually, the honor comes from our admiration of an album that challenged the rulebook while abiding by it. History Channel death forever!
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