Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Nile


Nile - Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka
Relapse Records, 1998
Genre: Death Metal

1. Smashing The Antiu
2. Barra Edinazzu
3. Kudurru Maqlu
4. Serpent Headed Mask
5. Ramses Bringer of War
6. Stones of Sorrow
7. Die Rache Krieg Lied Der Assyriche
8. The Howling of the Jinn
9. Pestilence And Iniquity
10. Opening of the Mouth
11. Beneath Eternal Oceans Of Sand




When I first heard of this band’s arrival on the scene I felt they would probably shed some serious intelligent light onto the blasé lyrical conceptions portrayed in most Death Metal releases.  Not to mention the musical arrangement concept of performing Egyptian Death Metal was immensely intriguing to me.  I was hoping for flowing Arabic guitar scales flowing up and down the fret boards of the guitars, coupled with an intensity Death Metal could only be known for.  However, I think what the public received is mostly a Harmonic Minor scale on the guitar, instead of the hundreds of scale work devised by the Arabic culture within their own music.  If you are truly searching for that “pure” middle-eastern feel then I would recommend Orphaned Land.  However, their devotion to God may put some metal fans at an uneasy spot of purchasing their albums.  However, if the music is all you care about then Orphaned Land presents a much more accurate form of Middle-Eastern extreme metal.  Perhaps Melechesh would be a good choice as well, especially for something more demonic.  Nile repeatedly screws up the message and gives education a bad name.  For they take a small piece of what they think is true and extrapolate that into gross inaccuracy with a reckless disregard for archaeological and historical truths.

I will first tackle the musical accomplishments of Nile, for they are far more impressive than their historical knowledge.  “Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka” as a Death Metal album is an incredibly well done masterpiece in my opinion.  However, when we beat our heads against the wall attempting to find the Egyptian Death Metal aspects it is very small indeed.  If this were not an attempt at Egyptian Death Metal, then I would say this is a creative wake up call to the Death Metal genre.  For the creation of the songs and riff writing is nearly un-matched.  Furthermore the guitar work is exceptional, fast paced when necessarily and broodingly slow at other junctures.  The skill with which they play is also quite incredible, Nile are truly well learned musicians and expect nothing less than a flawlessly executed performance on this album.  The drumming is an exceptional presentation of truly thoughtful drumming.  Pete Hammoura was not satisfied to blast through this album, but instead he thought out each drum line to syncopate him with the guitar and to throw in some necessary flare at times when things slowed down. 

The album launches you into a Death Metal blitzkrieg with “Smashing the Antiu” an inherently Egyptian sounding title; however, I cannot find one touch of an Egyptian song structure throughout the song.  It is merely a superb Technical Death Metal song and that is all.  “Opening of the Mouth” at points had some passages reminiscent of an Egyptian sound here and there.  However, other than that I did not find anything inherently Middle Eastern about the structuring of the songs.  Do not misunderstand me, for the songs are quite superb and I highly recommend listening to this CD, but if you are expecting a highly intelligent and well thought out conceptual piece, you will be as disappointed as me.  One of the most stand-out and interesting parts of this album is the song “Die Rache Krieg Lied der Assyriche.”  The song title is undoubtedly in German, and since Assyriology played a large part in German scholarly sectors in recent times. I see no problem in quoting a title.  However, it was really Sir Henry Austen Layard, an Englishmen, who is attributed with being the father of Assyriology.  His excavations, with permissions from the British government, began in 1845.  However, Jules Oppert, a German, would be instrumental in deciphering the Behistun Rock in the Mesopotamian region.  Now, on the topic of Assyrian not being Egyptian, I will vehemently and violently explain this idiocy later.  Now the music of this song is quite impeccable and different.  What Nile took it upon them to do was make a donation to the Tibetan Monks and have them sing on their album.  This is easily one of my favorite songs on the album.  It has a very tribalistic and foreboding feel in the recording.  The interesting part, while very creative, is that they used Tibetan Monks, clearly from Tibet.  Furthermore Tibet is not near Egypt.  While the use of the Tibetan Monks was sheer creative genius on Nile’s part, I find it a bizarre choice for what they were conceptually trying to achieve.  Though, this brings me to the song that I thought was quite impressive and the most Egyptian sounding out of all of them, “Opening of the Mouth.”  In the middle of this song the whole band stops and a tribal drumming sequence goes as they sing “Sebau Fiends work evil on the body.”  I thought this was an incredibly impressive switch to put into the middle of an intense Death Metal song, showing how creative and experimental Nile was willing to be.  Standing out amongst the rest of the tracks to classical aficionados was a rendition of Gustav Holsts “Mars the Bringer of War.”  Nile changed the name to “Ramses Bringer of War,” while they did not play the entirety of Holsts original work they played the more memorable intro of his masterpiece.  This was a great choice to re-work, because surprisingly practically no extreme metal bands seem to have thought of covering it.  Nile’s rendition was splendid in my opinion and I think many Death Metal fans will agree that it is a triumph in the Death Metal scene.

This brings me into discussing the lyrical content of their so called “Egyptian lyrics.”  Now I read an interview with Karl Sanders around the time this album was released and I remember him stating that some of the lyrics used were Sumerian.  Now I was at first greatly curious about this because a book on Sumerian linguistics is quite difficult to track down.  I have merely found a book on the Akkadian, which is quite extensive, and archaeologists have a full alphabet for.  The last I had heard was that the Sumerian language was still a broken language within the archaeological field, so to see a Death Metal band writing their own lyrics in Sumerian would be quite impressive indeed.  Now the Akkadian language is derived from what linguists have called “Common Semitic.”  I conjecture that this may have been Sumerian, for the writing styles are almost identical, using cuneiform as the primary writing aspect.  Now that broke into West Semitic and East Semitic, East Semitic broke into Eblaite and Akkadian.  The city-states of Akkad over ran the land of Sumer taking over the entirety of the southern Middle East.  The Akkadian language dominated the region and as time went on Akkad became a common trade language used amongst Persians, Egyptians and Akkadians.  However, the Akkadian language was doomed to die out on its own, but Western Semitic flourished and eventually developed into the commonly known language as Hebrew (including Canaanite).  Jesus Christ spoke a derivative/similar language called Aramaic, for those wanting a reference point.  Furthermore when Akkad flourished in the region it was also prior to the Babylonian and Assyrian empires that later took rule, sometimes the Akkadian language is commonly referred to as Babylonian and Assyrian.  Granted Babylonian and Assyrian were also modified linguistic representations of the original Akkadian language, because the empires are nearly thousands of years apart, so some language modifications had to occur.  The key to discovering and decoding the language was when archaeologists found the Behistun rock which was a trilingual inscription, containing, Old Persian (Akkadia), Elamite and Sumerian. 

As you can see language is an interest of mine so imagine my surprise when I saw a song title such as “Barra Edinazzu.”  I couldn't identify this language for the life of me.  It clearly wasn’t Egyptian, in fact very little of the foreign languages used throughout this album are not Egyptian.  Some words and phrases are, but most are not.  So I took a closer look at the lyrics to “Barra Edinazzu” and I knew I had read them somewhere.  Sure enough they came from the Necronomicon, on page 80 to page 81.  The prayer entitled “The Exorcism of Barra Edinazzu (For Spirits who Attack the Circle).”  Word for word this prayer is copied and Karl Sanders had the nerve to explain to the public that this was “Sumerian.”  It sure as hell is not Sumerian, I have Sumerian dictionaries I can’t find a goddamn thing relating to the words used in this book.  Now remember Akkadian and Sumerian are very closely related languages, and the Sumerian translations in the Necronomicon are not even nearly close to what I find.  The word for “God” or “Spirit” according to the Necronomicon is stated as being “Xul.”  This I can’t find anywhere, I notice that the word God is “ilum” and the word spirit is “mukil resim.”  For those about to point out that the Necronomicon has a bibliography in it where I can find related information, I own some of the books and you will see that I am using them in my bibliography at the end of the review to disprove the farcical nature of this most infuriating text. 

The Necronomicon’s perversion of Sumerian does not stop at linguistics alone, but the belief structure they would have you believe is so erroneous it makes me want to hit something.  There are various parts of the Necronomicon that wholeheartedly piss me off.  The first that stood out to me was a numerological aspect in the title “Supplementary Material to 777.”  The number 777 is related to Judaic lore and is the number of God.  If you are pulling aspects of a Sumerian time-frame then using a representation of God makes no sense. Furthermore the Sumerians used a sexagesimal number set.  However, the number seven was greatly important in to the Sumerian culture; often time’s ritualistic aspects had to be done seven times.  This is most likely why in the development of Judaism the number 777 was represented as God.  Labeling a deity with numerical representation is not new and the Sumerians did it as well.  However, the Necronomicon tries to make you believe that they got the number system correct.  Sometimes the Sumerians would write the names of their deities in the form of numbers such as Samas (pronounced ‘Sha-mash’) whose number was 20.  Now the Necronomicon actually did get this aspect correct, but when it comes to the number 30 the representation for Sin, the Necronomicon states it is the number for Nanna.  This brings me to wonder what else is inherently erroneous about the Necronomicon.  Now why Nile chose a book that presents erroneous information about the Sumerian’s I will never know.  For a band that should have spent their time focusing on Egypt they seemed to use a lot of the “Sumerian” aspects. 

Now another aspect of the Necronomicon that really makes my blood boil is how it bases a lot of truths around Aleister Crowly and H.P. Lovecraft, two writers of fiction.  Granted both men were into occult magic, but it was not Sumerian.  There’s in fact a chart of comparisons on page xxxix of the Necronomicon which compares all three, Lovecraft, Crowley, and Sumer.  This does nothing but increase my belief that this perversion of Sumerian is nothing but a joke in terms of the Necronomicon.  The first thing I notice is Cthulhu, whose number is 666, and in Sumer should be referenced as Ctha-lu or Kutulu.  Now I’m looking through my book “Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia.”  I can’t find reference to this Kutulu person anywhere.  Nevermind symbology related to him or the number 666.  Now I know the number 666 in the Torah was related to Lucifer because of his imperfection (see my review on Blut Aus Nord’s “The Work Which Transforms God” for further reading on this).  I can indeed locate some of the names within but as far as the symbolism of some aspects is completely incorrect.  For example, the Pentagram, which in most religions has become a pretty important aspect, especially in the form of a Pentacle.  Now it says that it is derived Plough Sign in Sumerian, which it says “the original pentagram and sign of the Aryan race.”  (Necronomicon, pg. xxxix)  Now will someone please kindly inform me where in the bloody hell the Aryan race comes into play here?  First off the Sumerians did develop the symbol of the swastika and it was used very rarely in their culture.  However, as an Aryan representation for Arabic peoples is the most preposterous thing I have ever heard.  The swastika wasn’t even derived from a plow symbol.  The symbol for a plough in Sumerian doesn’t look anything like a pentagram either (see Figure 3 on Page 102 of “The Sumerians” by Samuel Noah Kramer).  Now the Sumerians did have a star that was important in their religion and it was an EIGHT pointed star.  Sometimes it was represented as a six pointed star, which may have later influenced the Star of David used by the Jews.  However, in terms of deities Nile seems to have done their better research and when mentioned in the song “Die Rache Krieg Lied der Assyriche” Nergal is mentioned as the “dread god of war and plague.”  This is a fairly accurate description of this god and I cannot fault Nile on this statement.  However, I can fault them on the fact that Nergal has no relation really to Egyptian Mythology.  However, the developmental influence may have happened across the sea.  Regardless Nergal is mentioned nowhere in Egyptian mythology.

The next topic I would like to discuss is the aspect of Evil used on the Nile album and throughout the Necronomicon.  This is an extreme metal release so obviously Nile would closer associate themselves with an evil nature rather than a benevolent one.  However in the linear notes on the last page it quotes “Evil thanx from Nile to.”  While at first glance many would think nothing of this, but then it occurred to me that the Egyptian religion is fairly unique in the sense that it’s deities have both good and evil aspects to them as if there is always a balance.  I found this interesting when I began to think about it because shouldn’t technically Nile say “Neutral thanx” if they would like to come off as being well read on the Egyptian religion?  Furthermore the Necronomicon in itself is held as a tome of “evil.”  No matter how inaccurate it actually is.  I am saddened and dismayed at Nile’s choice to reference the Necronomicon in their music for it makes them seem as if they are unwilling to do the hard research, to make sure what they display as fact is indeed fact.  Nothing made me more furious than Karl Sanders’ quote telling the world this was indeed Sumerian, when in fact it was nothing near what Sumerian was in actuality.  Now there are thousands of uninformed people walking the earth proclaiming that Nile is a good reference, when in fact, if Nile had done careful research on their own they would have seen the mockery in itself.

I must discuss my own personal outlook on the Necronomicon for a moment, because I believe I have a very educated opinion on the subject, seeing as how I have read a fair amount and studied Sumer quite a bit in my spare time.  I once read a review of the Necronomicon and the reviewer stated that the Bible and the Torah were works of fiction, but they were based on fact.  How could things be any different for the Necronomicon?  This I believe was coming from someone who truly believed in the things the Necronomicon claimed to raise, furthermore this person stated that he had seen “things” that were unexplainable.  Now my question is that if the Bible and the Torah are works of fiction then why is not the Necronomicon the biggest work of fiction of all?  I see many people claiming such books of power as “true,” yet they have no substantial works or historical background to back them up.  Now the Necronomicon tries very hard to create that historical background for the reader, but reading any literature on what Sumer really is, any fool can see that the Necronomicon is an incredibly ignorant work of fiction.  I have heard people claim that other books of power are also the oldest in magical works, yet when presented with Pope Honorius and Le Dragon Rouge these people know nothing of true books of power.  Misinformation is very dangerous it is the quickest and easiest way to forget the past.  I’m greatly disappointed in Nile’s work with this great concept.  They came up with a truly original and brilliant idea, but then dropped the ball during the writing and research process.  I am sad to say this will get an overall poor rating, but I must do it.  The music is great the information is unforgivably erroneous.

Bibliography:

Black, Jeremy and Green, Anthony.  God’s Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia.  Third University of Texas Press, Austin Texas, 1997

Celentano, Dave.  Monster Scales and Modes.  Centerstream Publishing, Anaheim Hills, CA, 1992

Huehnergard, John.  A Grammar of Akkadian.  Scholars Press, Atlanta, GA, 1998

Kramer, Samuel Noah.  The Sumerians.  University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, 1963

Saggs, H.W.F. BabyloniansBritish Museum Press, London, 1995

Simon.  Necronomicon. Avon Books, New York New York, 1980





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