Nile

support Ex Deo + Svart Crown
author AP date 24/09/13 venue Amager Bio, Copenhagen, DEN

Due to work and gym commitments, I arrive at Amager Bio just in time to witness the second special guest on this tour, Sincarnate, concluding their set at 19:45. As such, there unfortunately won't be any thoughts offered on them, or the preceding Saratan in this review, but do check both of them out via the provided links. Instead, the first band of the evening for me is a familiar one, and one which I have been looking forward to watching for the second time in three months.

All photos by Peter Troest

Svart Crown

Hailing from the beautiful city of Nice on the French riviera, Côte d'Azur, Svart Crown sound like the antithesis to its pristine azure water and Mediterranean charm. I remember watching these at Hellfest in the summer and being awe-struck at the authority with which they performed - something I explained with the festival taking place in their home territory. But tonight, too, their presence is commanding, even at the face of a tiny audience which initially consists of curious onlookers rathern than the band's fans. But armed with a sound which I feel is best described as a darker and more extreme take on pre-"The Way of All Flesh" era Gojira, most of the hundred-or-so people gathered in front of the stage soon find themselves converts, headbanging and applauding the band with profound enthusiasm. It's not difficult to hear or see why: not only do the band look positively menacing on stage - a flurry of constant movement; the songs provide some of the most interesting modern extreme metal I've heard in years, empoying that brooding tone so central to Gojira's music, discolouring that tone with unsettling, blackened melodies, and adding a touch of frenzy to the proceedings through their love of polyrhythmic percussion and song-dynamics. From these inputs, as well as clever dim colour combinations in the lighting, Svart Crown are able to conjure an atmosphere of pure unadulterated darkness, climaxing with the mid-set "Profane" and the cacophonous "In Utero: A Place of Hatred and Threat", which evokes total terror via its opening sample of a young woman screaming in a mixture of pain, panic and fear. And the maddening stabs of dissonant guitar in the technical extravaganza of "Revelatio: Down Here Stillborn" are equally as disquieting. Svart Crown set the bar high for the two bands still to come, and I find myself fairly certain that with a performance as confident and songs are diverse as theirs, Svart Crown have just established themselves as the best band on this tour.

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Ex Deo

Prior to this evening, I've had no idea who or what Ex Deo is; posterior to it, I have no desire to find out any more. What it is, is standard fare mid-paced death metal cloaked in an ancient Roman theme; average riffs backed by sampled choir aahs and synth, in songs that largely fail to leave any sort of lasting impression. What Ex Deo lack in showmanship, they attempt to compensate for by wearing some sort of armor (and in vocalist Maurizio Iacono's case, a kind of wool dress under it) in keeping with the concept, but to me it seems like an unnecessary gimmick that contributes nothing to the band's music. There are the odd decent tracks, such as "I, Caligvla" and "Teutoburg (Ambush of Varus)", dotting the setlist, but as my colleague Ellis 'EW' Woolley mused in his own review of this tour in London earlier this month, where are those epic buzzsaw riffs that other conceptual bands like Amon Amarth have to their credit? Indeed, this feels like little else than Kataklysm in larp gear.

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Nile

Fortunately the evening's headliner Nile, whose conceptual framework is, as their moniker suggests, ancient Egyptian history and mythology, are well versed in the field of riffs. Easily the most brutal, but also the most technically tantalising of tonight's bill, Nile have this authenticity to them that makes a band like Ex Deo look a little too PG-13 to be considered a real metal band. Nile have no gimmicks; just four ordinary looking grizzly metal dudes dispensing a wealth of expertly written songs with otherworldly musicianship (drummer George Kollias, in particular, drags my jaw to the floor more than once during this 14-song barrage).

By today's standards, Nile have a rich history which includes no less than seven full-length albums since 1998, and though I must confess to having very little insight in this context, it is mainly the band's most recent material off 2012's "At the Gate of Sethu" and its predecessors, Those Whom the Gods Detest" and "Ithyphallic" from 2009 and 2007, respectively; that command the most endearing reaction from me. I am acutely aware of the difficulty in performing songs as complex as theirs, so I do not hold it against them that Nile are not the most dynamic of bands on stage; just as I am grateful for the few slower moments of respite from the frantically cascading riffs and breakneck tempo characterise much of Nile's output, which arrive with songs such as "Black Seeds of Vengeance" and "Slayer of Gods".

For a non-fan such as myself, enduring 14 songs of this character is quite the trying task, but even so I am able to appreciate the amount of passion, dedication and, well... skill that needs to be there for songs like this to even be possible to write and perform live. Indeed, Nile awaken in me tremendous admiration, and though they will likely never be particularly dear to me as a band, I find myself sucking a good dose of entertainment out of this spectacle.

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