Ξ June 1st, 2009 | → 3 Comments | ∇ Album Reviews |
Karl Sanders, mastermind behind my favourite death metal band Nile, released one of my favourite albums ever 5 years ago with his first foray into acoustic/ambient work, ‘Saurian Meditation’. Even though at that moment I was yet to fully take to death metal (ironically it was only a year later that Nile’s ‘Annihilation of the Wicked’ changed my life forever), I loved the idea that a member of such an extreme band could write something so wonderfully different from his usual work and not come across as false or money grabbing. Sanders is a proper Egyptologist, fully versed in the myth, lore and instrumentation that caused him to write a brilliantly evocative work. Personally I hoped, but didn’t think there would be another, but here we are, 5 years later and ‘Saurian Exorcisms’ is upon us.
The first thing that strikes you about this album in comparison with its predecessor is the darker tone. The songs are much eerier, more haunting melodies slip in between Eastern percussion, and the chants seem a lot more ominous. It also possesses a deeper, earthier mix that gives the music more weight, which really allows the tribal nature flow more freely. Parts of tracks like ‘Impalement and Crucifixion of the Last Remnants of the Pre Human Serpent Volk’ sound like huge atmospheric pieces from films like Lawrence of Arabia, or the Mummy. The production is top notch, which ideally you’d always want on such ambient/world music albums to really let you hear every nuances and note.
Sanders has also learned some exotic new instruments since ‘Saurian Meditation’. He plays the baglama saz, which is a Turkish lute and the glissentar, an 11 string fretless guitar that is used to imitate a traditional African oud, which is like another form of lute. It is astounding that he has created such Middle Eastern tones using the actual instrument itself rather than a Pro-Tool sample of it, and it lends an air of authenticity to the record, heightened by Sanders’ attention to detail with his writing. Gone are the wailing electric guitar solos from the previous album, replaced by acoustic soloing which suits the more restrained tone. I did enjoy the electric work though from the last album, so was a bit disappointed to discover them gone. Somehow until this album, I imagined Ancient Egypt to be soundtracked by a howling guitar line over Middle Eastern tones. I was wrong, and this is much more appropriate.
‘Rapture of the Empty Spaces’ opens with the sound of wind, and you could almost visualise it flowing through the corridors of pyramids, as tribal beats follow mournful chanting. Opener ‘Prelimanary Purification before the Calling of Inanna’ is a haunting, more delicate piece than ‘Awaiting the Vultures’ which opened the previous album, and it really shows the maturing of Sanders’ writing from instrumentals to pure experimental ambience. ‘Curse the Sun’ is another example of how good use of tempo can create something incredibly evocative. It sways slowly around a percussion line that doesn’t take it beyond a crawl, and yet there is no moment where you wish it would end.
Fans of Nile may find all this too light, but to truly understand the scope of what Karl Sanders attempts to achieve with Nile albums, I think that you should play this in between the death metal, and see exactly where the interludes and intros can lead. Yet more proof that this man is possibly the most talented and inventive musician in the death metal scene, ‘Saurian Exorcisms’ is classy, refined ambient Middle Eastern music with that little touch of darkness and despair that only a death metaller could bring to it. Worth the listen.