“You’ve got to be strong enough to survive through periods of bleakness, times of no hope, where things look like they’ll never turn around,” NILE’s Karl Sanders says. “You just gotta keep believing in yourself and pushing forward. The strong will ultimately survive. The weak fall by the wayside. NILE has a new ethos: we’re not going to live in the past. That’s over and done with. Nostalgia has its place, but we’re virile now. We’re going to do something meaningful now. This ethos bears out on »Vile Nilotic Rites.« It’s not dwelling on the band’s past – it’s showing what the band is capable of now. We are here to conquer!”
Ithyphallic, indeed! »Vile Nilotic Rites« started with the entry of new members to the fold: bassist/vocalist Brad Parris was brought on in 2015, while guitarist/vocalist Brian Kingsland joined in 2017. With a new band behind NILE – creative chief Sanders and long-time drummer George Kollias hold the fort – they reconfigured the foundation to focus on teamwork and, ultimately, songcraft. The quartet went into »Vile Nilotic Rites« as a team, writing and collaborating in ways Sanders had not seen since debut, »Amongst The Catacombs Of Nephren-Ka« (1998). That it happened over Signature Slams and Sizzlin’ Breakfast Skillets wasn’t very death metal but it’s the cold hard truth.
“It started at a Denny’s in Seattle in 2016,” says Sanders. “I was having a long conversation about NILE with Brad. Brad said to me, ‘Karl, what could this band become if we had four people on the same page, working together?’ Right there, I was sold. Now, circa 2019, we’re a team. We’re a team of horses going in the same direction. Finally, I have to say. That’s what’s been going on with us. We’ve been secluded away, working like madmen. We are zooming into the songs on this album. We didn’t want »Vile Nilotic Rites« to be a typical album. We wanted fans to listen to this album, to sink their teeth into and enjoy it. We wanted people to say, ‘Fuck yeah! Now, this is NILE!’”
NILE spent an entire year on pre-production at Sanders’ own Serpent Headed Studios in Greenville, South Carolina, where he, Kingsland, and Parris holed up to refine and subsequently perfect NILE’s saurian whirlwind and provocative funerary spells. The pre-production of songs like ‘Long Shadows Of Dread,’ ‘Seven Horns Of War,’ ‘Snake Pit Mating Frenzy,’ and ‘The Imperishable Stars Are Sickened’ served two purposes: one, it provided drummer Kollias, who was ensconced in a horde of drums and percussion in Greece, the full picture and two, it acted less like a blueprint and more like an exact map of »Vile Nilotic Rites« for mixing and mastering engineer ace Mark Lewis (BELPHEGOR, FALLUJAH). NILE were particularly exacting on their new album because they could.
“Since we took so long writing »Vile Nilotic Rites,« every lick, every note of every solo, every drum hit or pattern were carefully considered as part of the whole,” Sanders says. “Our pre-production has the vocals right there. I mean, when George was tracking his drums, he had the vocals, the guitars and so on. He had the context of what the completed song was going to sound like. He was able to play off that, and what he’s done on »Vile Nilotic Rites« is nothing short of amazing! What I mean by this is: the drums and vocals aren’t fighting each other; the guitars and drums aren’t fighting each other; it’s all working together, cohesive. For once, it all feels like we’ve got things working together not against. I think what we’ve done this time around is really amazing.”
There’s death metal and then there’s NILE. For »Vile Nilotic Rites,« the mantra was: if it’s not right for the song, it gets cut. Nothing superfluous or idiosyncratic were allowed to persist on and live through NILE’s new team-based songwriting process. If a part was savage but didn’t fit, out the door it went. But if it was merciless and fit into the overall design of the song, it was kept and curated. The end result of NILE’s extreme musical vetting was 11 songs, sharp as obsidian blades, heavy as nine Nubian pyramids. Songs like ‘Oxford Handbook Of Savage Genocidal Warfare,’ ‘That Which Is Forbidden,’ ‘Revel In Their Suffering,’ and the title track exhibit the self-made qualities of editorial perfection without losing the fiery passion that makes NILE’s death metal devastatingly uncontestable.
“If people heard all the amazing drum parts that we had to toss because they didn’t fit the songs they’d be astounded,” says Sanders. “We could’ve made an additional whole other record of cast-off drum parts. But that’s not what we wanted, as a band, on »Vile Nilotic Rites.« We wanted to make cohesive songs. No individual glory for any one person allowed! And that can hurt, really. I mean, we had to cut 4 minutes from ‘Revel In Their Suffering.’ The end had a whole new section that had a killer solo from Brian – likely the best solo he’s ever played – on it. It was so good the first 5 minutes of the song didn’t even matter. He had to make a hard choice though. Sacrifice the solo for sake of the greater good of the song. A lot of good fat was trimmed from these songs. That’s how we rolled this time around.”
Lyrically, »Vile Nilotic Rites« was inspired by and informed from Sanders’ scholastic interest in and understanding of Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and Levantine history. The title itself, however, pushes the proverbial felucca to Khartoum, but it’s not all academic, of course. »Vile Nilotic Rites« was appropriated by Sanders from the HBO series »Rome« – episode ‘Deus Impeditio Esuritori Nullus (No God Can Stop A Hungry Man),’ in fact – while ‘Oxford Handbook Of Savage Genocidal Warfare’ was initially informed by a Nazi documentary Sanders had watched but manipulated and then correlated instead to Assyrian king, Sargon II. Then, of course, there’s a song about zombie ants (‘Thus Sayeth The Parasites Of The Mind’), which is not only par for the course with Sanders but also germane to the aesthetics of death metal.
“The lyrics are very much NILE,” Sanders says. “But there’s a different side to the lyrics this time around. We’re trying to not take ourselves too seriously. We’re not college professors. NILE plays death metal, so there’s a lot of tongue-in-cheek stuff in the lyrics. OK, the ideas originate in academia but they don’t stay there. The freedom to go anywhere I wanted made the lyric-writing process that much more fun. I will say the overall context of »Vile Nilotic Rites« deals with the dread of modern civilization. It’s 2019. We all know at some point in our near future mankind will destroy itself. One way or another – destroying the planet or blowing ourselves to smithereens – we’ll end ourselves. It seems more like to happen than not. So, the common guy, living 2,000 years ago in Egypt, did he realize his civilization was about to bite it to the Greeks, the Romans, or the Arabs? How did they know their end was near? Or, did they know their civilization was going to end? It’s speculative – all of it – but I see parallels to today’s world. There’s some impending doom that’s about to unfold on us.”
NILE recorded »Vile Nilotic Rites« across two different studios. The bulk of the work was engineered and produced by Sanders at his Serpent Headed Studios, while the drums were engineered by Jim Touras and George Dovolos and recorded at Esoteron Music Studios in Athens over a 10-day period. Once back in South Carolina at Sanders’ studio, NILE spent the better part of the next six months tracking their new album. The final assembly was then handed off to Lewis, who helmed the attack against NILE’s super-multi-track songs at his MRL Studios in Nashville.
“I’m extremely happy with the job Mark did on »Vile Nilotic Rites.« It’s heavy, I can hear everything, meaning I can even hear the bass on a NILE album, which is a first. But we all worked so ridiculously hard. We wanted the parts to do what metal guitar, bass, drum, and vocal parts are supposed to do. It wasn’t enough to play it right. We wanted everything to have fire on it. The songs had to move. They had to have feel. That’s not an easy balance to strike: precision and passion. I mean, I can hear everything on »At The Gate Of Sethu,« but the sound wasn’t quite there. Everything we did had to live up to our own rigorous requirements. It had to be in tune, it had to be played right, it had to have fire on it, and it had to sound good. That’s what we wanted going into »Vile Nilotic Rites« with and that’s what we got out!”
As for what NILE want out of »Vile Nilotic Rites,« it’s appreciation and recognition for not only forwarding NILE’s boundaries but also pushing death metal to new creative heights. This is four years of work concluded, of blood, sweat and tears shed for and only for death metal and all its diehard fans. That it’s NILE’s 25th anniversary – they’ve persevered through thin and thick – is also of importance to Sanders and crew. »Vile Nilotic Rites« is the culmination of all that’s come before it and will be the flag for everything that’s to come after.
“The first track on the record, ‘Long Shadows Of Dread,’ is the first track on the record we want people to hear,” Sanders says. “Those first few seconds are meant to instill a hammer blow of god-like heaviness. It’s like, ‘We’re going to crush you. No doubt about it. This is a metal-fucking-moment!’ The record comes out with a big bang, and that was obviously on purpose. As for the band, we feel like we’re being given a second chance. And we’re not going to waste it! We work for the fans and not anybody else. The people who listen to NILE are the most important people in our so-called orbit. They’re the only people that matter when it comes down to it. »Vile Nilotic Rites« is for the fans!”
NILE are: Karl Sanders (guitars/vocals), George Kollias (drums), Brad Parris (bass/vocals) and Brian Kingsland (guitars/vocals). Join them in their celebration of the vilest Nilotic rites where the wrathful sky oversees that which is forbidden…
© Chris Dick