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What Should Not Be Unearthed

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What Should Not Be Unearthed
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Type: Full-Length
Release Date: August 28th, 2015
Genre: Brutal, Death, Technical
2. Negating The Abominable Coils Of Apep
3. Liber Stellae - Rubaeae
4. In The Name Of Amun
5. What Should Not Be Unearthed
7. Age Of Famine
8. Ushabti Reanimator
9. Rape Of The Black Earth
10. To Walk Forth From Flames Unscathed

Review by Nathan on January 28, 2023.

Alright, I'm half a dozen albums in, let's revisit Nile's career arc up until this point. Their first three albums established their unique, complex and interesting sound, adding extra spices and ingredients throughout. There were some growing pains and hiccups along the way, but once they got the mix right and put out Annihilation of the Wicked, approximately 6,000 lives were lost in the tidal wave of jizz that erupted out of metal fans when it first dropped.

The next two albums that followed had remnants of what caused AotW to create such a stir, but the tendency for the songs to go too far up their own ass started to creep back in again. Just when you thought they had figured it out, they went right back to handicapping themselves, and every new album seemed to drift further away from the magic. Ithyphallic still had its moments of glory, but you could tell something was missing. Those Whom the Gods Detest was a little bit closer, but way too dense and long and as such lacked that explosive punch - although at least they finally figured out the ambient part. By the time Sethu came in with its amped up technicality it was obvious they had completely abandoned the original map and were trying to forge an alternate path to glory. I was feeling it, but my understanding is Sethu didn't jive so well with the fanbase.

Around this time, Karl Sanders started listening to his critics on the internet or something, because What Should Not Be Unearthed, the subject of this review here, is the closest thing to the hallowed Annihilation of the Wicked, at least in terms of its focus and structure. Like its older brother, Unearthed gives you the meat first with fewer frills than before - the key difference is the technical, aggressive side of Nile's music isn't hitting with the same impact here. All of the pieces are present, and everything appears to be where it should be, but for some reason this album just can't gel to form a compelling picture...

It seems like the reaction to What Should Not Be Unearthed was more positive, as it does amend many of the criticisms people had about Sethu. The thicker production has returned, and the guitars return to the heavier, grounded fretwork that sounds closest to Ithyphallic and Those Whom the Gods Detest. This is an album that hedges its bets and picks the safest and shortest route to any feasible destination Nile would go. It checks all the boxes they didn't check with the previous album, and does everything you expect it to. For most people it seems like that was fine, but at the tail end of a Nile binge like I am it sounds uninspired and afraid of branching out and trying a new take the same way other albums did.

As much as I give Sanders and co. flak for trying off-the-wall experiments and diversions that miss the mark, I do always appreciate that Nile has the balls to go for the jugular. What Should Not Be Unearthed is the first album they've ever written in which they merely retread old ground, which is why it ends up sounding so middling. There's so much "this is ok" on this album it starts to become irritating by the end. The songwriting is steadier, with many more sustained bursts of speed and frenetic riffing which they've focused on since at least Sethu, but at least the bad transitions early on were...interesting, even if it was in a bad way. Unearthed can’t manage that. The warmer, muddier tone might have been what people were asking for, but it muffles the impact of the faster fretwork. 'Negating the Abominable Coils of Apep' is a smoothly written, flowing song, but I can't remember a single second of it once it's done. The songs focus on the technical, overstimulating parts of the music, whizzing past you in a blur without any momentum. It doesn't sound inspired anymore, and in some ways that's worse than their more haphazard messes like In Their Darkened Shrines, because at least in their early career they made terrible choices with enthusiasm and zeal.

I feel like I've had to beat around the bush more when reviewing What Should Not Be Unearthed, comparing it more to previous releases than how it stands on its own. However, it's much more difficult to write about Unearthed because of the lack of distinct, standout qualities. This is the last Nile album with the core trinity intact, as Dallas Toler-Wade would depart a few years later. If this was the path that Nile was going to continue down, I'm glad they didn't keep things stable, because you can hear how they struggle to break outside of the box they've painted themselves in. Perhaps that's even the crux of why this sounds so forced as a majority of the stagnant contributions are coming from the guitars and vocals. You could argue Toler-Wade was phoning it in. His narrative mid-ranged growl has always just kinda hung around, but here it just...I can't even really give it many defining qualities other than it exists. I suppose the really weird phrasing wouldn't really fit any other way, but it also doesn't fit in general...this album is the only time it really grates on me at all though.

Initially started this series because I thought the diversity and idiosyncrasy of every album in Nile's back catalog would make them an easy target for a deep dive. In that sense the only real notable quality about What Should Not Be Unearthed is that it's Nile's forgettable release.

Rating: 5 out of 10


Review by Yener on May 20, 2019.

I know for a fact that this album has been anticipated like crazy by Nile fans, and the death metal scene in general. After the bit underwhelming At the Gate of Sethu, many were curious what these SC legends would bring to the table next.

Don’t get me wrong, Sethu is still a fine album. The band decided to try something different and go with a very articulate, clean production, where everything could be heard clearly – and it did just that. And while I commend them for trying something different, the truth of the matter is that metal is supposed to GO SMASH.

What Should Not Be Unearthed sees a return of a more primal Nile, a Nile which is much more straightforward and violent. I mean, they don’t need to prove that they can play. Everyone and their dog know that Nile are beasts on their instruments. They literally have fuck all to prove to anyone, so it’s good to hear them back doing what they do best – GO SMASH.

You can instantly tell that it’s a more violent album when “Call to Destruction” comes roaring out of your speakers. Fast, tight, angry – Nile. Much of the album follows this formula of “I’ll kick you in the face until my leg gets tired”, in which “Liber Stellae Rubeae” is a prime example. Just absolute brutality with skull fucking riffs coming at you from all directions, it really is Nile doing what they do best – liquefying faces. The guitars roar with vengeful might and anger, the vocals are blistering slabs of death metal goodness, and behind the kit you have George Kollias, doing his best impersonation of a human being as he possibly can. George, knock it off, we all know you’re not of our species.

“In the Name of Amun” starts life with an elegant baglama saz intro and female vocals, and it’s really quite beautiful until Kollias decides “OK NOW WE BLAST” and off we go again. The riffs here are nothing short of just absolute filth, it’s just sheer aggression, and the guitars sound fucking HUGE. It’s quite amazing when you think how low these guys tune their guitars, throw on eight thousand metric tons of distortion, and STILL manage to sound clear as day. The lead guitar tones on this album are especially good. 

I’m not going to go into the songs one by one as there really isn’t any point. This is a monster of an album which any self-respecting death metal fan should have in their collection. To me it sounds like a mixture of Those Whom the Gods Detest and Annihilation of the Wicked, and that’s a pretty good thing to sound like.

One piece of criticism that I would like to make would be for the overall production. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good. There’s very little wrong with the way it sounds. The problem is that it sounds just too similar to the last five Nile albums. The drums need to be way louder in the mix. I want that double bass to rattle my chest and intestines. I want that snare to feel like it’s repeatedly punching me in the face. While I love Neil Kernon’s work, and the guy himself is an excellent producer and engineer (he's worked with Al Di Meola for fuck's sake, I have the utmost respect for him), I just think it’s time for a change. Five albums with the same producer is just enough. I want to hear what someone else can bring out of this band. The problem I think is that since they’ve been working with Neil for so long (exactly ten years now), everyone is just real comfortable in the studio… too comfortable. It’s time to spice things up a bit, see how they sound with someone else. It’s time to throw a wrench in the cycle and see what happens.

In conclusion, this is a superb album. The song writing is catchy, brutal, and effective. Performances by the band members are excellent, as to be expected with Nile. Do yourself a favor and give it a spin. IT GOES SMASH.

Highlights: Liber Stellae Rubeae, In the Name of Amun, Call to Destruction, Evil to Cast Out Evil, Rape of the Black Earth.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10