Behold the early days of Nile, a band destined to crush the well-fortified boundaries of death metal with later releases Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka (1998) and Black Seeds of Vengeance (2000), both modern classics in their own right. Numerous accolades from the metal underground regarding the aforementioned albums demanded the wide re-release of early EPs Festivals of Atonement (1995; tracks one through six here) and Ramses Bringer of War (1997; tracks seven through nine) -- and a close look brings focus to Nile's development into a creative leader of the underground metal scene. Here, the Festivals of Atonement cuts deserve the most attention -- the three Ramses Bringer of War tunes were subsequently re-recorded for inclusion on Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka, an upgrade in recording quality being the only difference -- and show, not surprisingly, a less-complex but still youthfully ambitious version of Nile. "The Black Hand of Set" and "Immortality Through Art" boast stop-on-a-dime grindcore-quality tempo dynamics and more concise songwriting akin to the band's later work, while "Wrought" and "Godless/Extinct" are lengthy epics that bring to mind the deathly doom-sludge of Obituary crossed with Morbid Angel's high-velocity histrionics. As expected, the Egyptian lyrical themes are well researched and main songwriter/guitarist/vocalist Karl Sanders showcases his potential for creating instrumentally diverse and unusual material, even if the flutes, grandiose keyboards, and classical guitar occasionally sound shoehorned into the arrangements; his visions were more fully realized on Nile's later work. Die-hard Nile completists will appreciate In the Beginning more than casual fans (if there is such a thing in death metal circles), although the material is still head and shoulders above the majority of boring, painfully derivative gore-and-Satan fare (Cannibal Corpse and Deicide, anyone?) puked out of the death metal scene in the mid-'90s.
AllMusic Review by John Serba