Nile

support Ex Deo + Svart Crown + Pestifer
author EW date 10/09/13 venue Garage, London, UK

As history lessons go this was not a bad one. Nile and Ex-Deo together on tour gives a chance for two contrasting historical themes to be compared, at least in a musical sense when lyrics are not easily distinguishable; Egyptians v Romans (or America v Canada, but we'll gloss over that fact). First though, the Belgian neutrality of Pestifer and French attitude of Svart Crown.

All photos by Teodora Dani

Pestifer

Pestifer

A cursory listen to Pestifer's sole album "Age of Disgrace" in the run-up to the gig educated my mind a little towards their technical death metal, a style that was very much inkeeping with the spirit of legends Death and Atheist. This means plenty of off-kilter solos, a fat bass sound and songs veering from jazzy complexities to straight-up kick drum blasts but in the reality of a club show when you are the bottom band of four a muddy sound can always be relied upon to negate much of the efforts of the band.

Musically the highlight was the solos which were frequent and varied but rhythmically there was little that could be discerned from the work of the 2 guitarists and bassist. Put this down in part to a lack of nous in the songwriting department when compared against the two giants mentioned earlier, but also the oh-so-typically uber-triggered kick drum sound which did it's best so foster a spirit of robotic inhumanity to the songs. With no stage presence or charisma to speak of there is plenty of work for Pestifer to make their live shows reach the level of "Age of Disgrace".

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Svart Crown

Svart Crown

The blackened death of Svart Crown was an instant reprieve and a welcome addition to this otherwise all death metal show as the triple windmilling that instantly opened their set guaranteed a greater visual presence than Pestifer. Looking more confident and together as a unit gave the impression, even before considering the qualities of their music, that this fourpiece have something about them to solidify a place for now in the B-league of extreme metal acts as that all important touch of personality resonated through frontman JB Le Bail's declarations of joy at playing before this sizable London crowd.

Musically the riff progressions and song structures all appeared to be par for the course, with touches of Sonne Adam married to Morbid Angel and Behemoth screaming across the airwaves, but having been delivered with conviction made them sound all the more impressive. Perhaps it was my brain kidding me in anticipation of the worldly themes that were to follow but the nuances of Middle Eastern chords heard at times meant Svart Crown left with a warm reception and the feeling they will be back on British shores again.

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Ex Deo

Ex Deo

Now here is an interesting one. On record Ex Deo are a fairly typical mid-paced modern death metal band with a sizable dollop of synth and pomp fleshing out an average (at best) collection of riffs under a Roman theme. Live, however, with the synth inaudible for much of the performance, the stunning mediocrity of the Ex Deo's riffs and songs are left naked, exposed by the absence of the glossy synth and compressed sound which is at the heart of their soundscape. First my ears told me, then my eyes; these were simple palm-muted chords repeated without interest in ingenuity, personality or passion, backed by a standard drum performance all designed for easy live digestion but leaving nothing to dig for under the surface.

Essentially Kataklysm with a fondness for fancy dress, there was plenty of headbanging and chug to initiate a live response from Maurizio Iacono's troops, but where are the riffs that wreak havoc recalling their thematic Roman source, as Nile and Amon Amarth have done so spectacuarly with their own historic specialities? When the synth was audible it often contained spoken word sections - why wasn't Iacono speaking these parts which would have added to the scale of the show? For the first half of their 45 minutes I could remember no riff or passage of any note that was likely to linger and by the time there were some leads to speak of it was too late. An unclear sound is commonplace for extreme metal bands on the stage but that is no excuse for not trying to make life more interesting (see Pestifer above). I like the concept of Ex Deo's - if the Vikings are ripe for metal then so the Romans definitely are - but this feels lowest common denominator in approach, solely reliant on image and over-production to foster appreciation. If inspiration was needed, look no further than Nile...

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Nile

Nile

Grumbling like an old man about why bands like Ex Deo are seen across every festival line-up and on tours like this when many other bands are more deserving, the inimitable Nile were the antithesis to their dumbed-down approach with a thumping 70 minute set showing that a loss of audible intricacies on stage need not be the deathknell for creativity. By now everyone with a passing interest in death metal is fully aware of what this institution stand for but still they never fail to impress. Culling their setlist from across a discography now 7 albums strong and on my eigth time of seeing them live I still never fail to be impressed with the complexity of their songs and the ability with which somersaulting riffs cascade into each other at breakneck speed yet while still retaining semblances of order.

And yet it is not just at breakneck speed where Nile specialise as the slower moments in "Black Seeds of Vengeance","Unas, Slayer of Gods" and "Sarcophagus" take no mercy against modern practioners of death metal wholly incapable of incorporating darkness into their songs without resorting to cliche. Transcending this live is done no frills, as is always the Nile way, as the stage performance of messrs Karl Sanders and Dallas Toler-Wade who share guttural growls between them, windmilling machine Todd Ellis and hyperactive octopus George Kollias is to simply stand (or sit) and deliver. Besides the expected volley of material from recent opusses "At the Gates of Sethu" and "Those Whom the Gods Detest" the performance even had the bonus of rarely aired tracks like "The Howling of the Jinn" and "Smashing the Antiu" from "Among the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka" assaulting the senses, although a little more from my personal favourite "Annihilation of the Wicked" would have gone down nicely. Besides the overall geniality of Sanders and Toler-Wade on the mics, who you imagine wouldn't offend your gran over a cup of tea this is every inch, this is every inch the conclusion one would want from a band of Nile's technicality. That they pull it off every time is worthy of their by-now legendary status.

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