Enter 'Ithyphallic'. The amorphous riffing tangents are still present, yet this was to be the first solid (and for the most part, successful) attempt at writing actual "songs" instead of professionally recording a cluster of over-indulgent jam sessions.
Right away I noticed that the usually and traditionally thick Nile "sound" had been stripped down a few layers or so. The heaviness is still there for sure but the slightly rawer production lends to the album a rather tinny overtone, yet does little to nothing to deter my appreciation for the songs themselves.
Beyond the fact that the majority of the material on this album sounds reigned in and tempered to perfection, there is an undeniable upgrade in the bands technical proficiency as well. The fretboard finger fucking fiesta on this album is light years away from what the band was dishing out during the 'Nephren-Ka/Black Seeds' era. Some of the more "notier" material sounds like what I would imagine 'light and air' to sound like given the possibility to experience aurally either element.
On top (or beneath) the more "blazingly fast" riffage are some of Nile's most oppressive doom landscapes, wrought from such abysmal depths that it's actually rather difficult not to feel a bit dirty and violated after having experienced their colossal weight and rather weird implications such as those scattered throughout the duration of the title track. ESPECIALLY the title track. As if attempting to live up to the name, 'Ithyphallic' showcases some of Nile's most perverse and straight up "bizarro" riffs and pattern arrangements coupled with a rather desperate frenzy of notes beforehand that ultimately loses the power of flight only to succumb to the swampy depths, left drowning and gurgling in despondency. It is also worth mentioning that 'Ithyphallic' is also, without a doubt, Nile's most "evil" sounding release, putting them alongside bands such as Incantation and Immolation within the ranks of hauntingly blasphemous sounding death metal.
This is also the album where Dallas Toler-Wade pretty much took over vocal duties and ran with it, similar to when Mille became Kreator's sole vocalist after the release of 'Terrible Certainty', leaving Ventor to drop bombs in the background. This move makes perfect sense to me being that Dallas has a more refined and hateful sounding approach as opposed to Karl's muddier and rather unconvincing low end growl.
It seems to me that once George Kolias was enveloped into the fold, that's when Nile truly began to cook, with the bands past works up until that point merely serving as a warm up exercise.
'Ithyphallic' has a few flaws, to be sure, but nothing to sit around with your thumb in your mouth, soaking in tears as if you had just been ass raped and discarded. As I mentioned previously, I am rather shocked at all of the whiny complaints regarding this album. I would imagine that anyone who had followed the band up until this point would be pleased as punch with this album as it showcases true growth within a faction of talented musicians, even if some of their previous works have been a bit misguided and directionless.