There has always been something reassuring about the arrival of a new NILE album. This band has stuck rigidly to their own uniquely myopic conceptual path for 20+ years now, exhibiting a huge amount of imagination and ingenuity along the way, but always remembering to crush as many skulls as possible. If you don't have a copy of, at the very least, "Black Seeds of Vengeance" in your collection then you really need to reassess your priorities in life. NILE are death metal gods and that, as they say, is that. The problem is that new albums can come and go at a breathless pace these days, and so while 2015's "What Should Not Be Unearthed" was worthy of great acclaim, it didn't quite register as a new career highlight for these veterans. "Vile Nilotic Rites" could easily suffer the same fate, but it only takes a cursory stroll through guitarist Karl Sanders's latest tapestry of arcane terrors to note that this is another imperious show of strength.
In essence, little has changed here beyond a marginally greater use of atmospheric interludes and ambient tricks. Although still slick enough to switch from a flat-out labyrinth of death metal riffs to something more traditional or straightforward, NILE still excel when they build those wild spirals of blastbeats and picked arpeggios. Shorter tracks like "The Oxford Handbook of Savage Genocidal Warfare" and the self-explanatorily vicious "Snake Pit Mating Frenzy" are as punchy and memorable as anything the Americans have released since their first two records. Meanwhile, the more expansive epics that truly define NILE's musical world reach a new level of ogrish muscularity and cinematic flair here: "Seven Horns of War" is like a progged-out MORBID ANGEL channeling BLIND GUARDIAN's orchestral side, while "The Imperishable Stars Are Sickened" hammers and flails with EMPEROR-like ambition, flurries of serrated-edge riffs, choral backing vocals and deft changes of pace, adding to a heightened sense of fleshly tension and spiritual dread. And then there are the guitar solos: dazzling, all of them, and at times fiendishly melodic and a thrilling counterpart to the riffs' churning dissonance. This is destructive, widescreen stuff.
Death metal has been absurdly fruitful this year, 2019, so much so that even bands as iconic as NILE could struggle to fight their way to the front. Fortunately, "Vile Nilotic Rites" is among their finest, deepest works to date and indicates that the inexorable drift of that Egyptian river is still transporting Karl Sanders and his cohorts to interesting and brutal places.