Sixteen years is a very long time to wait to see a band.
And yet, it took that long for me to finally get a chance to see Egyptian mythology-themed death metallers NILE after I first bought Amongst the Tombs of Nephran-Ka and promptly had my arse blown off by its roaring, savage brilliance.
Time passed. For one reason or another (poverty, lack of time etc.) I kept missing every gig. It became a tradition. Every two or so years, NILE would release a new album and then go on tour. I, with equal regularity, would buy the former and miss the latter.
Not this time, though. As it happened, NILE was playing in my town, Southampton, and the venue was within easy travelling distance of my humble abode. This time I was going to make it! And so I did. Were they worth the wait, though?
with the logo for Narcotic Wasteland, his
new anti-drugs, anti-alcohol band, which
hinted at a message being made. Though the
end result was much like waving a vegetarian
sausage around a wolf pit
After I squandered my hard-earned money on beer and a NILE t-shirt (this time I was going to represent!!!) I checked out the opening act, local death metal band Laid Wasted. The first thing I noticed was that their lead singer looked a lot like Richard E Grant, and who flitted between growls and droll wit between numbers.
Laid Wasted are in fact a very good band with some meaty hooks and a tight pace, but like millions of other great local bands, you have to wonder if talent and ability alone will ever translate into a long term career. “At our last gig, we were playing in front of three people”, Richard E Grant admitted at one point – visibly grateful that they had a decent turn-out this time.
And so on to NILE, who emerged sooner than you might have expected. Because there, onstage, large as life, was lead man, lyricist and amateur scholar par excellence, Karl Sanders… nonchalantly setting up gear and the monitor for his laptop, so as to play the samples. The effect was like spending years trying to spot a White Siberian Tiger in the wild only to chance upon one pushing a trolley around Sainsbury’s.
Soon, however, the band REALLY appeared onstage. Sanders on the left, an ankh hanging from his neck. To the right, Todd Ellis on bass, looking gnarled and taut like you’d expect a metaller to look. At the rear, George Kollias blasting on drums and juggling his drumsticks just to remind us how jammy he is. And in the centre, Dallas Toler-Wade on guitar and main vocals. He was wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the logo for Narcotic Wasteland, his new anti-drugs, anti-alcohol band, which hinted at a message being made. Though the end result was much like waving a vegetarian sausage around a wolf pit, given the state of the audience that night.
But we came for the music, and did NILE deliver? Oh yes, with a punishing, growling set full of brutality and ancient menace. Their set list was nice and varied too. Kafir blasted along with ‘Lashed to the Slave Stick’, ‘The Blessed Dead’ got pasted at the bar with ‘The Howling of the Jinn’, and ‘Hittite Dung Incantation’ skipped gaily through the fields of broken glass and severed limbs with ‘The Inevitable Degradation of Flesh’….
You couldn’t then complain that NILE were neglecting any of their material, which is always a good thing, but it also demonstrates how much of a sad bastard one is for knowing this much about the back catalogue in the first place. (Then again, and as said, I was star-struck watching Karl Sanders fiddle about with some wires.)
Finally, after a fittingly brutal rendition of ‘Black Seeds of Vengeance’, the band called it quits for the night. No encores, just the lights turning back on and the band taking its gear apart with the same tradesman’s rigour as it had set it up.
All in all, this gig felt like it was performed by a band that wanted to deliver but was trying not to burn itself out on a busy tour at the same time. It was still excellent, but you knew they couldn’t blow out as they’d be dead onstage the next evening.
The gig itself had a good turnout, but it could have been heaving if the hairier and spikier elements of Southampton’s student population hadn’t already pissed off home for the summer.
Still, there are worst fates that can befall a band – just ask Laid Wasted.
Alexander Hay is a writer and polemicist based online and in print.