It should be no surprise who French death grinders NEPHREN-KA emulates. Consider this group in the milling vein of NILE's debut album from which they derive their namesake, "Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka". Inspired by the same sandy wastelands as NILE, NEPHREN-KA doesn't consult ancient Sumerian scriptures on their debut full-length, "The Fall of Omnius". Instead, they choose the fictional desert planet Arrakis from Frank Herbert's "Dune" to belt out a nasty and insidious score, presumably with the explicit purpose of smiting the memory of TOTO and Brian Eno from the 1984 film soundtrack.
"The Fall of Omnius" stakes its muse from the giant Shai-Hulud sand worms that raise hell all over the Dune universe, plus the cultish Fremen, worshippers of those gi-normous annelids. Subconscious whiffs of spice mélange, cinnamon and aldehyde are the only endearments to be hinted on "The Fall of Omnius". Otherwise, it's one careening track of chaos after another, all building up to the promise of a climactic desert war that's translated in earnest.
For death metal purists, "The Fall of Omnius" is going to be mandatory listening. The opening track "Butlerian Djihad" dumps scalding rains of grind and reeling guitar and bass strikes that march menacingly even more than the inflictive drums. While riding a sand worm in Herbert's world seems as much of a thrill ride as a frightening proposition, NEPHREN-KA manages to tap into both the euphoria and the blunt fear in the face of those Old Men of the Desert.
Once "Mastering the Voice" propels from its initial plod, the relentless barrages from drummer Thibaud Pailoux become a genuine spectacle. Pailoux's omnipresent triplicates and double hammers convey a steady, blitzing tempo that could be correlated with Herbert's "thumpers", as in the vibrating gadgets used as part of worm charming. Here is where NEPHREN-KA astutely merges extreme metal with a literary classic. If you've ever wondered what kind of adrenalized metronome Herbert meant to keep his potential death dealers honest, this could very well be it, even by 1965 music theories.
NEPHREN-KA really begins to impress by the time "Legend of Selim (Part 1: The Seeds of Discord)" erupts with blurring draughts, followed by relentless pounding from "The Rise of Omnius" through "Praise Shai-Hulud". The album's finale, "To the Golden Path", detonates with searing layers of guitar shred. Between all of the merciless mayhem is a pseudo orchestral interlude on the outro to "Fedyakins Storm", lending this gory project a trace of cinematic flair before NEPHREN-KA releases the proverbial hounds with "The Cymek Revolution".
Bassist Alexandre Phalippon not only keeps looping time with the machine-like paring from guitarist Sebastein Briat, Phalippon is fully characterized throughout the entire album, especially on "The Cymek Revolution" and "Praise Shai-Hulud". Briat and Phalippon really put on a show in the solo section of "Legend of Selim Part 1" at the fore of vocalist Laurent Chambe's chawing pentameter. Chambe is nearly as lethal, precise and nauseating (meant in a complimentary fashion) as George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher. Death metal hounds will embrace him along with every dexterous component of NEPHREN-KA.
If the Shai-Hulud are considered nearly indestructible gods of the sand, then NEPHREN-KA does everything in their capacity to construe The Great Makers as brutally and horrifically as they can. "The Fall of Omnius" is calamitous, booming and so freaking fast a second listen will be necessary to catch every blinding set of scales and devastating beat pattern NEPHREN-KA hurls out. For certain, the Battle of Arrakeen sounds aptly gruesome in these guys' hands.