Egyptian Cock Rock

Nile's sausage fest collides with Ozzfest

Everybody sing together now: "Anoint my phallus with the blood of the FAL-LEN!"

If you see the crowd gathered in front of the second stage at Ozzfest — girls and boys alike — singing along to these words, banging heads, and swooning in phallic-referencing glee, you can thank Karl Sanders and his cohorts in South Carolina's death-metal institution Nile. As Sanders, lead singer of the group, explains, the title of the band's new album, Ithyphallic, "refers to the ancient Egyptian custom of portraying gods of war and fertility in statues with... mythically proportioned erections."

"To us," Sanders continues, "it symbolizes — besides some sort of very potent type of creative force that we feel as a band — a big 'fuck you' to anybody who would censor us or tell us what to do. And to our critics as well. The music we're making is what we want to do. It's what we enjoy. And goddamn it, we're not changing for anybody."

"Walk like an E-gyp-tian."
"Walk like an E-gyp-tian."

Details

Nile plays Ozzfest on Thursday, August 30, at Sound Advice Amphitheatre, 601-7 Sansbury's Way, West Palm Beach. The concert is free, and doors open at noon. Visit www.livenation.com.

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So how is Nile's dizzying, almost exhaustingly technical brand of death metal going over with the Ozzfest crowd?

"The jury's still out," Sanders replies. "There should be a bit of pride and accomplishment that we got this opportunity, but we are fighting on foreign soil here. I saw quite a lot of Nile fans in the front two rows when we played — but that was just the front two rows. I saw a lot of people with that deer-in-the-headlights look, like the dumbfounded 'What in the fuck is this?' when we started playing. Like they weren't ready for a band that heavy, that fast, that extreme.

"I think," he continues, "some of our music is so challenging that it goes right by some people. Because of the sheer execution that we're displaying, it doesn't actually sound challenging because they're executed so well. But if you really take it apart and really listen to what the fuck we're doing, there's some mind-boggling stuff. There are some extreme stretches with the left hand that are agonizing to do over and over and over in rehearsals. That's beyond being challenging; that's physically fucking painful!"

Although their style and playing regimen isn't easy, their hard work is beginning to reap rewards. Kerrang magazine heralds Nile as "death metal's saviors," and Ithyphallic is getting rave reviews around the world. The album entered the Finnish national chart at number 13, has also charted in Germany, and even landed on the Billboard Top 200 — all in the first week of its release.

Somewhat of a throwback to the classic death-metal style originated by the likes of Morbid Angel and Suffocation, Nile's primary distinction (besides its overt emphasis on musical proficiency and endurance) is that Sanders writes lyrics based exclusively in ancient Egyptian lore. Though at first one might be tempted to dismiss the band as a novelty or an exaggerated self-parody of death metal itself, on second glance, the band's lyrical focus blends with the genre rather perfectly. Considering that the ancient Egyptian spiritual milieu was known for its fear-inducing gods and goddesses, moral ambiguity, and recurring tones of violence, death, and the afterlife, it's a wonder that no other band before Nile has explored death metal from this angle.

Sanders' fascination with ancient Egypt also provides the band with a limitless source of inspiration. For his part, Sanders is nothing if not thorough in his research. Nile albums tend to have voluminous liner notes explaining the basis for each song. According to Sanders, his interest in the subject was triggered in childhood while watching classic films with his father. Epics like Ben Hur, The Ten Commandments, and The Mummy all dazzled the young Karl Sanders' mind. By the beginnings of the band in 1993, with Sanders and his bandmates searching for an aesthetic identity with which to frame the music, Sanders' latent Egyptophilia seemed a natural fit, and the imagery began to pour forth.

"A person can take our music as far as they want to and dig down quite deep," Sanders says. "But it's also not necessary. It still functions as pure entertainment. Everything doesn't always have to be educational. I get a lot of letters and e-mails from college students and, heck, even professors. But Nile isn't built to be some grand esoteric display of arcane knowledge. That's just part of the fun. I kind of personally dig that, and it's fun, but it's still music. We're still a band that you go watch and bang your head to. It's still metal — and I try not to lose sight of that."

Still, Sanders encourages fans to dig.

"They can read something else about the stuff I'm talking about," he says. "Don't just leave it where I've taken it for death-metal lyrics. There's a whole big world of knowledge and ancient history that goes into Nile lyrics. Really, we're just kind of pointing the way back to all of that. We can't possibly encapsulate all the incredible stuff that was ancient Egypt within the context of Nile. We're just doing this little small take on it in comparison to what there really is out there."

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