Nile's Karl Sanders Discusses the Game-Changing 'At the Gate of Sethu'

BY Denise FalzonPublished Jul 9, 2012

South Carolina trio Nile have established themselves as one of the forerunner bands of technical death metal. Now, with their latest album, the newly released At the Gate of Sethu, the band have maintained their unique Egyptian-themed approach while taking their sound to the next level with a different recording method and new vocal styles.

Marking their seventh full-length, At the Gate of Sethu is the follow-up to 2009's Those Whom the Gods Detest and features Nile's iconic sound that includes Middle Eastern flourishes. The new elements expand of their distinct sound, and as frontman and mastermind Karl Sanders explains to Exclaim!, the band took a more old-school approach during the recording process.

"One of the mark things about this new record is it was made in such a way so that you could hear everything we were doing, for better or worse," he says. "It's not quite as heavy, heavy, heavy on the production sound because when you're going at 280 beats per minute it gets hard to hear all the details."

Sanders says the band tried different recording techniques, so that the listener could hear the sounds of what they were playing clearly, which he says was a risky move. "The guitar tones are very naked, it's very raw and honest, it's a mic in front of the speaker and really old school.

"What you hear on the album is the sound of our hands on the guitars, the sound of hands on the drums, the actual sound of our voices, we did those things the old-fashioned way. Records aren't really made like that anymore. There may be some element of an audience that doesn't quite relate to it, I get it, but for people who actually want to hear what we're actually playing, oh man, this record does it, fuck yeah!"

Nile have also employed a diverse range of vocal styles on At the Gate of Sethu to provide a different, and more interesting, listening experience for longtime fans. "One of the criticisms that we got, that after a while I started to see the sense of, was that all the vocals all sound the same," Sanders explains. "So we wanted to get some different vocal expressions and I started wondering to myself, 'Why not? Where does it say in the rule book that vocals on a death metal album have to only be a certain way? Why can't you do other stuff?'

"Once I thought about it from that perspective, then the whole creative range of possibilities kind of opened up. I really wanted to find lots of flavours, lots of colours, lots of different ways of expressing the lyrics. It's kind of like the lyrics determine the expression of the vocals. So in that way, yeah, there's a lot of varied vocal things on the record, it's definitely not one dimensional."

Sanders says that while it's a challenge to keep developing as a band by adding new elements, and at the same time maintain their distinct sound, it's important for Nile to keep progressing.

"I think that's the eternal quest for any band: to retain one's identity yet find new and interesting things to do and not develop so far, crazy left that you lose your fanbase," he says. "You've got to find that delicate balance somehow."

At the Gate of Sethu is out now via Nuclear Blast Records.

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