There was a time you couldn’t move for this album’s t-shirt.
That says a lot about what Nile achieved with it – and why this album became a crucial gateway piece for a new generation of death metal fans.
Eighteen years is a terrifying amount of time to have elapsed for an album that still feels modern.
But the really interesting thing about ‘Black Seeds’ is how Nile managed to bring a new cohort of fans on board on the basis of the album before it.
Because that was no sure thing.
‘Catacombs’ may have thrilled an underground gagging for someone – anyone – to come along and give death metal a fresh sound. And that it most certainly did.
But objectively – to a wider audience – it was an absolutely forbidding listen, largely down to the impenetrable production.
Its cult following however saw it through, creating new genre heroes out of Karl Sanders, Chief Spires and Pete Hammoura and, in large part, their imagery.
And so to ‘Black Seeds’, which would come to dominate the underground for a year.
They’d tidied up the production, but only just: it’s incredibly tightly packed, boomy and scooped. But Derek Roddy’s drumming left even former tub thumper Pete Hammoura in the shade. And that’s saying something.
His work on this remains a joy, even to those who view his style – and that of Tony Laureano, or George Kollias- as somewhat impersonal, efficient or emotionless. In order for Nile to solidify their reputation as prime movers, they needed the best in the business at that time.
And aside from Flo Mournier, Derek Roddy was as good as it got. He was a new generation of death metal drummer, doing things even Sandoval couldn’t do.
‘Black Seeds’ hit the then young, emerging death metal fans of the future.
It was Suffocation for people who’d never heard of Suffocation.
Technical, precise, fast and extreme. And it’s best moments are still fantastic.
That harmonised melodic break half way through ‘Defiling The Gates Of Ishtar’ was and is a masterful interplay of dual guitar and drum brio, pirouetting around its own rhythm as the drums go at 100mph.
Filmic boom in the ‘Black… seeds… of vengeance’ chorus that demands chanting crowds.
The rolls, cymbal snaps and clacking speed of ‘Masturbating The War God’, culminating in its almost 1940’s silver screen movie style climax – the best moment on the album.
The beastly, monstrous low hammer on groove that closes ‘Multitude Of Foes’, leading to the firecracker start of the almost preposterously fast ‘Chapter For Transforming Into A Snake’.
The fast ticking of Roddy’s ride cymbal is a constant presence alongside the Death style harmonies and z-tuned riff-base.
Can I remember individual Nile riffs, as opposed to melodic breaks and wailiing solos?
Not many: they’re still buried in there. But this album was about the effect of the whole piece.
So there it is.
They made an album that through well deserved hype, proper music, uncompromising attitudes and a certain whacky vision managed to push through to an entirely new audience.
You couldn’t have predicted it, especially on the basis of the obscuritant ‘Catacombs’, but it happened, and it happened big time. I remember their tour from the album: it was packed out.
And all of this in an album that even the most defensive underground purist could not gainsay a note of. There was no sell out here.
It’s been enjoyable pulling this one out from the vaults – another case of going back to an album you think you know it all about, are tired of, or just more cynical about.
But this was and is a cracker.
– Earl Grey ::: 20/08/18