Technical death metal legends Nile hit Switzerland as part of their “What Should Not Be Unearthed Part III” tour, supported by another legendary band, US grindcore veterans Terorrizer. First up tonight though were young Greek thrashers Exarsis, here to promote their fourth album (New War Order, released October 2017). It’s not easy being first on the bill at L’Usine, since the Geneva crowd can be a little staid, especially on a weeknight. But Exarsis leapt onto the stage with energy so infectious that it was impossible not to party with them. This was an old-school thrash performance with absolutely no concessions to anything that happened post-1988. White hi-top trainers? Check. Tight black jeans and bullet belts? Check. Windmilling hair? Check. Then throw in lots of pointing, falsetto vocals, running about the stage and general showmanship, and you get the idea. Exarsis may not have the most original riffs or themes, but their brand of throwback thrash does what it says on the tin, plus they back up their enthusiasm with accomplished musicianship. If you don’t like thrash this might not have been for you, but I was delighted – a great start to the evening.
Grindcore royalty next, as Terrorizer hit the stage. Led by drumming legend Pete Sandoval, the rest of the line-up since 2013 has consisted of Lee Harrison and Sam Molina (both of Monstrosity) with Lee on guitar and Sam on bass and vocals. Together they form a charismatic trio, but it was hard to tear my eyes and ears away from Pete Sandoval. I was of course expecting fireworks from the so-called inventor of the blast beat, but nothing could have prepared me for the sheer commitment of the man. He drums as if the fate of the universe depends upon it. His passion was so inspirational that it was quite moving, if “moving” can be appropriate description for the sonic assault that is a Terrorizer set. Terrorizer may be veterans, but anyone who thought they might be has-beens would have been proved soundly wrong tonight. New track “Sharp Knives” had a real buzz and modern feel to it, which bodes well for the forthcoming new album, Caustic Attack.
At over an hour, this was a very long set, and I was eventually pummelled into a sort of grindcore trance. I was only shaken from my reverie when Lee Harrison leaned down to give me a sweaty fist pump and hand me a Terrorizer souvenir pick, which I will treasure.
The venue then filled with the eerie sounds of ancient Egypt as we waited for Nile to perform. For over twenty years now, Nile have been playing death metal inspired by ancient middle eastern civilisations and HP Lovecraft. Their meticulously-researched lyrics, technical wizardry and sheer consistency have earned them legendary status, and their reputation certainly preceded them tonight; amongst the crowd I spotted numerous musicians from the Geneva metal scene, in attendance to watch some masters at work.
The only visual reference to ancient Egypt on stage tonight was Karl Sanders’ ankh necklace; Nile may have an all-encompassing theme, but it never descends into gimmick – it’s all in the service of their musical creation. As expected, the set began with “Ramses Bringer of War”, Nile’s version of the bombastic piece from Holst’s The Planets. This is the ultimate example of how classical music and death metal can cross over, and arguably the track with which Nile made their name. The crowd-pleasers then continued with “Sacrifice Unto Sebek” and “The Black Flame”. I would have liked to hear one or two more tracks from their most recent album (What Should Not Be Unearthed, 2015) – only “In the Name of Amun” was played tonight – but Nile had understandably decided to give their older fans a broad retrospective of their career.
Sample the band’s single “Call to Destruction” right here.
Many Nile fans were worried when long-term band member Dallas Toler-Wade quit last year, but the new line-up seems to be working extremely well. New guitarist Brian Kingsland joins the triple-vocal attack, and bassist-since-2015 Brad Parris takes centre stage, where he has an incredibly likeable presence, exhorting the crowd to “give us your best death metal growls!” There appears to be a great rapport between the band members, who frequently interacted with each other in the form of synchronised headbanging and guitar tricks.
Technical death metal such as Nile’s depends for its live recreation on a top-quality sound system, and L’Usine did an excellent job of bringing out Karl’s intricate oriental riffs and solos. The energy of both band and crowd only seemed to increase as the set went on, so that by the time Nile played the anthemic “Kafir!” at the halfway point, the atmosphere was exhilarating.
“Accessible” would be the wrong word for such extreme metal, but Nile’s music can genuinely be appreciated for its beauty as well as its brutality. I would love to see them doing a movie soundtrack one day, and with the cinematic quality of their sound it’s surprising they haven’t contributed to a movie or game soundtrack already. The evening ended with the epic “Unas, Slayer of the Gods”, after which Karl confirmed his reputation as one of the nicest guys in metal by immediately coming down into the crowd to say hi to fans.