Nile began brushing away the ancient sands of time in ‘93 giving death metal voice and breath to the gods with technical blast beat precision, a well-researched thorough knowledge of the middle east and the land of the pyramids and guitars that delivered pestilent fury. Guitarist/ vocalist Karl Sanders takes great pride and patience with the lyrics, weaving intricate and elaborate stories of grandeur of what was once buried, giving historical illumination over history that should be cherished and preserved as much as the treasures that still lay unearthed.
From the thunderous breakneck opening celebration of Smashing The Antiu on Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka to the ending gorging roar of To Walk Forth from Flames Unscathed from What Should Not Be Unearthed Nile have repeatedly broken the boundaries of what death metal should sound like. With richly textured storytelling atmospheres, alluring ritualistic chants, indigenous instruments and guitar notes that sear out like a sickle-sword to the ear with bludgeoning force honoring the Land of the Pharaohs.
Sanders talks about the time frame for lyric writing, “The lyrics are a big part of the song writing, it takes as long as it takes. The Black Seeds of Vengeance took about a year. “I think (At the Gate of) Sethu took about 10 months and about six months or so I think for Unearthed. I put lots of work into it.”
His intense attention to detail has drawn attention from fans as much as historical scholars, “I get more letters from college professors than people in Egypt. At the moment it’s an Arab country, it’s Muslim. Most Egyptian people don’t give a rat’s ass about Egyptology. In fact there are segments of extreme Islamic people who believe all the monuments should be torn down in Egypt. That’s where the song Call To Destruction came from. These guys want to tear down the pyramids, because they were blasphemy, they’re Pre-Islamic; ‘they shouldn’t be here, they’re a blasphemy against Allah.’”
Nile is doing their part in helping educate today’s youth, even if the youth take advantage “I get letters from college professors and college students hoping to take short cuts on their papers, (they) read Nile lyrics and go, hey here’s my paper. Then I get letters from professors that go, dude I appreciate everything you’ve done but my students should do their actual homework and not just copy off your Nile albums.”
The college scholars may not be fans of the music or vocals but they appreciate all the work Sanders has put into the content, “Generally your educational guys are gonna be more interested in the actual content and the stylistically trappings of the genre.”
Nile have been known for penning long, descriptive song titles to explain the story told within, but only a few hold the record for being the “most” descriptive. “Maybe the Chapter of Obeisance (Before Giving Breath to the Inert One in the Presence of the Crescent Shaped Horns) or Papyrus Containing (The Spell to Preserve Its Possessor Against Attacks from He Who Is in the Water), those are both really long ones. I used to remember it because there was a time when that was in the set list and we had to announce that song. That was like, oh boy. I haven’t done that in a while.”
Recently long time guitarist/vocalist Dallas Toler-Wade left the band with Enthean’s Brian Kingsland taking over lead vocal and guitar duties. “Well, we are moving forward and we’re really happy with the new guy. Things couldn’t be happier right now in the Nile camp,” Sanders assures.
Though they’re known for incredibly fast beats that would challenge the stamina of any drummer, Sanders says they’re in the group but not the fastest, “There’s some bands that are far more technical than we are. So if you go on sheer numbers, no we’re not the fastest of the fastest. We’re just in that fast pile, somewhere, but to me it’s about songwriting because just being fast is an endless pursuit, it’s what you do with it that matters.”
On new material, “We’re already working on new material, so we’re hoping to have a record out sometime late 2017.”
Some bands have experimented with various changes but Nile won’t fix what’s not broken, “I don’t think at this point in our career, radically changing conceptual themes is in our best interest, people would go like, what the fuck, who’re these guys? So, I don’t think there’s gonna be a radical change but I’ve found that whatever subject matter I want to do, through that medium, it’s really quite endless.”
On the touring combination of Nile and Overkill, “I grew up listening to thrash metal, to me its music that I’m very familiar with and feel comfortable with. Hopefully other people that like us find the connection as well.”
His early inspirations came from the beginning of metal and classic rock acts like, “Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top, Cream, Hendrix, Uli Roth, Jeff Beck, and Robin Trower.”
It could be argued that other vocal styles could be done with the music but the low growling delivery is the best vocal style to deliver the lyrics, fit and complement the music according to Sanders. “I think most of it is stylistic, if you got music, you got blast beats and double bass, it kind of demands the low growling.”
Though he would be intrigued to hear a band that successfully pulled off the music with a different vocal style, “I’ve always wondered what could happen if you took a Ronnie Dio or a Rob Halford and had them play some Cannibal Corpse. What would happen? Would people even accept it or go, what the fuck is that? I tend to think in this day and age in 2017, people would go, what the fuck is that? What the fuck are you doing? I want somebody to try that experiment. What would happen if?”
Experimentation is good as long as you don’t take it to unneeded places, “When you do things that go too far outside of fan expectations, your fans have difficulty relating to it, that’s just the way it is, there’s no right or wrong to it.”
Sanders is content tearing up pits and eardrums with Nile and his solo work, the ‘quiet side projects’ of Saurian Meditation and Saurian Exorcisms progressing Nile interludes and thematic elements to more audio narrative levels. “That’s enough for me, I really like metal, I’m pretty happy doing Nile.”
He’s a fan of culturally diverse forms of music, “I like exotic, strange worship music and death metal. This is kind of a way I get to do both.”
One of the trademark elements of Nile’s music are the atmospheric, visual sound effects and instrumental pieces which, on their own, take you on a historical sometimes spiritual journey. Sanders says you can’t go full force all the time, “You gotta catch your breath.”
Ancient Egypt is not new to Hollywood, though they’ve made movies with factual tidbits and pieces, they haven’t done the whole thing right yet. “Not a single one comes to mind. But there’s a place for that (movies like The Mummy) too. I came to realize because my son, had to watch The Mummy every day, for two months, every day, like 50 times I had to watch The Mummy and then I got it. Then I realized that is what fires the imaginations of youngsters who may one day, become Egyptologists or go to college or make movies or write music or whatever else. So did Hollywood get it right? No, does it actually matter? Its entertainment, if you really wanna know what happened, just Google it. It wasn’t that way when I was a kid, I had to go to the library and look shit up. Now, if you’re a parent and a kid asks, you just say, go look.”
He has a long tablet of bands he’d love to tour with, “I’m sure there’s a long list, who wouldn’t wanna tour with Judas Priest?”
One of his current non-music passions is Mixed Martial Arts. He routinely fights younger guys but thinks it’s a wonderful sport. He’s a fan of Josh Barnett who comes out to their L.A. shows.
All in all, Sanders is happy with what he’s accomplished, “It’s all good. I’m just happy and thankful to be playing metal. That’s what I spend my time doing. I’m a guitar player. It’s how I relate to the universe.”
On Nile’s reputation for having rabidly devoted fan pits, “It’s just the mood in the room and the fans themselves. How they’re feeling. I always say it’s the fans that make the show. We just get up there play the same songs, every fuckin day, what’s different? The people, the people are different. We rehearse it, get it tight and that’s what we do, to the best of our ability. The fans make the show.”