"Annihilation of the Wicked" is the 4th full-length studio album by US death metal act Nile. The album was released through Relapse Records in May 2005. It´s the successor to "In Their Darkened Shrines" from 2002 and features two lineup changes since the predecessor as drummer Tony Laureano has left the fold to be replaced by Greek drummer George Kollias. Kollias are known for his work with artists like Sickening Horror, Nightfall and Cerebrum among others. Jon Vesano who did some session vocals on "In Their Darkened Shrines (2002)" has become a permanent member, and in addition to performing vocals, he also plays the bass on "Annihilation of the Wicked".
The music on "Annihilation of the Wicked" is unmistakably the sound of Nile. Varied, brutal, and technically well played death metal featuring lyrics primarely revolving around ancient Egypt (there are other lyrical subjects on the album too like H.P. Lovecraft). There are some ethnic middle eastern musical themes/notes popping up from time to time in the music, but the predominant musical style is brutal technical death metal. Nile are quite a bit more sophisticated than your average brutal technical death metal act though and the song structures are rather complex and the band successfully incorporate epic atmospheres to their music too without sacrificing brutality in the process, and that´s no easy feat. Nile are not the type of act who take prisoners, so expect relentless brutality but just delivered in a clever and adventurous fashion.
The vocals vary between deep unintelligible growling and Dallas Toler-Wade´s more aggressive and intelligible brutal growls. The lyrics about ancient Egypt are of course a trademark of the band´s sound, and on this album lyricist Karl Sanders writes explanations to each song in the booklet, which at times feels like being at a history lesson again, but with a really great and inspiring history teacher, who knows how to tell some interesting historical details.
"Annihilation of the Wicked" is a relatively varied release for the genre in the respect that all tracks are memorable and recognisable after some spins. Not necessarily upon initial listens though, because this is not easily accessible music by any means, but given a bit of time and effort, it´s an album which will open up to the patient listener and reveal its many adventurous ideas and brilliant compositional details. You´ll get relentless and fierce blasting tracks like "The Burning Pits of the Duat" and "Cast Down the Heretic", but also more epic tracks like the title track, "User-Maat-Re", and of course the closing and almost 10 minutes long "Von Unaussprechlichen Kulten". I´ll give a special mention to "Lashed to the Slave Stick" too. It´s such a catchy and brutal death metal track. It´s one of those rare death metal tracks which sucks you in, chews you, and spit you out with a feeling of revelation.
The sound production which is handled by Neil Kernon is brutal and thankfully not too clean. The drums are triggered but not too much, which means that you´re still able to hear that it´s a human being playing and not a programmed computer drummer. Personally I could have wished for the vocals to be placed slightly higher in the mix and for the guitar tone to be slightly cleaner, but that´s minor details and an aquired taste, and overall the sound production suits the music perfectly.
The musicianship on the album is on a high level on all posts. New drummer George Kollias is positively on fire. His foot work is astonishing to say the least. He has got to be one of the fastest and most precise drummers out there yet he has the right organic touch to keep his playing from sounding too sterile. The musicianship is overall excellent on the album and in addition to the ultra fast and precise drumming you´re treated to fast and adventurous guitar riffs, and the above mentioned vocals, which provide the music with the right occult atmosphere.
Upon conclusion "Annihilation of the Wicked" definitely isn´t an easy listening experience and for most listeners it´s bound to take several spins before opening up to them. The fierce intensity of the music, the density and rawness of the sound production, and the unconventional song structures will probably keep most listeners on their feet and generally pose quite the challenge. When that is said the inaccessibility of the music is also its strength, because this is an album you never really get tired of listening to, because there are always new details to discover. At the same time it never becomes to academic and there are tons of old school death metal authenticity featured on the album, so it´s overall a good combination of elements. Nile are widely considered one of the leaders on the death metal scene and they certainly deserve the praise they get just on the grounds of the high quality of this album. A 4.5 star (90%) rating is fully deserved.