Sound — 10
To start off with, the guitar production on this record surpasses anything I've ever heard in a metal context. They're round, bassy, and beautiful, with chugging lows and screeching highs. Perfection, if a bit too high in the mix. You can hear every note perfectly. I wish the drums had been a bit louder, like Shrines, since the drumming is a key component of the exquisite death metal opera the band has laid out for us here. The bass is virtually inaudible- not a rare event in death metal, except for a few sick slap parts, most notably in Sacrifice Unto Sebek. I'm assuming that, if you're reading this, you already know Nile. They're a technical death metal band hailing from North Carolina. That means the music is fast, brutal, and manic. If you listen to Trivium, stop reading now, because this is nothing like that. Nile is certainly some of the best modern DM you will ever hear, and is commonly mentioned among legends such as Cryptopsy and Suffocation. Blast beats and double-bass fills permeate just about every second of the drums, slowing down to a screeching, eerie halt when necessary. The guitars, needless to say, are performed to perfection, with incredible leads worked into the riffs. I can't say anything negative about the sound other than some minor production tweaks I would've liked. It's pretty tough to hear the snare sometimes, and the drums overall don't have enough punch, but George Kollias's insane beats are still very audible.
Lyrics — 10
The lyrics are the essential frosting on the cake. As one could infer from the name, Nile writes on Egyptian themes. Guitarist/vocalist Karl Sanders's fascination with Egypt is very evident, from the usage of various Middle-Eastern and harmonic minor scales to the occasional usage of Middle-Eastern instruments. This is more of a straight-up tech death record than in the past. You can certainly hear the Egyptian influences, but it's not as immediately striking as the infernal underworld choir that filled out tracks like The Blessed Dead or the cascading drum armies of Hall of Saurian Entombment. Having said that, with the song structures Nile is developing here, that may be more appropriate. They've taken a much less epic tone than on previous outings for most of the record, tackling mostly literal, torture-related themes on most of the album. This lends itself to shorter, punchier tracks like the thrashy Lashed To The Slave Stick and almost-standard (! ) structure of Sacrifice Unto Sebek. Sanders goes into great depth in the liner notes about what each song is related to, and this is key to the music. After listening to the songs a few times, you realize the brilliance the music is arranged with. For instance, in User~Maat~Re, Sanders tells the story of Ramses II, an Egyptian Pharaoh who Sanders thinks was influenced greatly by the driving force of his dead father's incredible achievements. The song moves at a doom-like pace with the ever-present thundering double bass moving under the guitar riffs in an odd, almost syncopated rhythm. The guitars bristle with eerie, twisted, out-of-place pinch harmonics echoing the words of Ramses's father: "Thou hast done nothing." The lyrics are such an integral part of the music that it wouldn't be nearly as good without Sanders's lengthy, incredible explanations. All 3 vocalists come through with crystal clarity due to the massive production. The first track simply explodes out of your speakers with its machine-gun riffage and rapid-fire growled vocals: "Blasphemer, heretic, defiler of the sacred ones: Thou art deprived of your limbs!" And then Sanders, before the lengthy lead section: "Be drowned, be drowned, be vomited upon!" Perfectly executed vocals, all coalescing with the music at key points on the album, all collide in the last epic track, Von Unaussprechlichen Kulten, with guitarist/vocalist Dallas Toler-Wade letting loose an utterly earth-shattering barrage of a lyrical monologue, ending one of the most incredible pieces of music you will ever hear.
Overall Impression — 10
I'd say AOTW is on par with Shrines, which most people would say is Nile's best offering. An essentially perfect record, aside from a few very minor qualms. Every song is incredible, from the guitar heroics of Toler-Wade and Sanders on The Burning Pits of the Duat to the epic, dirge-like pace of the title track. The only mediocre track is an oddly out-of-place experimentation with jazzy rhythmic syncopation on Chapter Of Obeisance Before Giving Breath To The Inert One In The Presence Of The Crescent Shaped Horns, and even still, the song is excellent, just not one of Nile's best. If it was stolen, I would track down the thief, congratulate him on his superb taste in music, and then fill his orifices with fire (yes, that's a lyric). Excellent, excellent album. Don't miss out on it.