2004 Relapse Records
01. Awaiting The Vultures MP3
02. Of The Sleep Of Ishtar
03. Luring The Doom Serpent
04. Contemplations Of The Endless Abyss
05. The Elder God Shrine
06. Temple Of Lunar Ascension
07. Dreaming Through The Eyes Of Serpents
08. Whence No Traveler Returns
09. The Forbidden Path Across The Chasm Of Self-Realization
10. Beckon The Sick Winds Of Pestilence
Most bands have a leader, elected or otherwise, whose charisma, talent and presence draws the audience to them. As the frontman of Nile, Karl Sanders has spent more than a decade breathing new life into the death metal scene by taking the technical brilliance of Death, Pestilence, Carcass and Morbid Angel and crossbreeding it with Near Eastern influences through exotic instrumentation, eerie chants and creative sampling from films such as "Exorcist II: The Heretic." Yet, the foundation was almost always brutal, and besides a few segues, Nile stuck to their metal roots instead of traveling too far into acoustic meanderings. While Sanders is far from the only gifted individual in any of the past or present Nile incarnations, he has most definitely been their center, the anchor that has allowed Nile to go farther than most death metal bands would have dreamnt was possible. With his first solo album, Sanders throws off any extreme music constraints and transports listeners to a world of dark, mystic soundscapes, filled with ancient spirits, mind altering visions, and catacombs complex, all of which make for one hell of a debut.
Ten tracks are presented, totaling up to almost one hour of music, so you definitely get your hard-earned dollars worth. Each tune is between three and nine minutes, so it may take a bit of patience and time to consume all that is offered here. I highly recommend listening to "Saurian Meditation" through high quality audio components, and far away from outside disturbances, to fully appreciate this album. If you don't like long songs, or are expecting something in the vein of Nile (at least their straight death metal side), you may be quite disappointed. Yet, if you really give it a chance, I think you'll be swayed like a cobra into Sanders' entrancing compositions.
The journey begins with "Awaiting the Vultures," an intense piece checked with tribal rhythm, incredible chants, and good pacing. It is definitely a good start for the album and helps set the mood for the rest of the album. Up next is "Of The Sleep Of Ishtar," which is my favorite cut on Saurian Meditation. Clocking it at nearly ten minutes, this one really takes my breath away. It's so hauntingly beautiful; containing an atmosphere that could be interpreted as mournful or celebratory, depending on the listener. Vocalist Mike Breazeale really shows what his pipes can do, belting out an intoxicating performance filled with harmony and longing. Sanders' guitar line is immensely catchy and easy to follow, while the accompanying flutes, synths, and occasional dip into a modern electrified six-string solo, add a powerful punch."Luring The Doom Serpent" slowly builds the onslaught with war drums, and erupts into a classical guitar showdown that is near dizzying.
"Contemplation Of The Endless Abyss" delivers fans into the murky depths driven by Breazeales' astonishing vocal heights, which are monk-like in this particular number, accented by Buddhist gongs and reverb. "The Elder God Shrine," with its vibrant blend of Baglama Saz, tympani, horns and drums, is wicked fun, like some deranged Mardi Gras theme music, up-tempo and fairly danceable. Pete Hammoura (best known for his work on the first few Nile albums) really makes this one stand out, with his remarkable percussion skills. Current Nile axeman Dallas Toller-Wade contributes some vocal lines as well. "Temple Of Lunar Ascension" has a frightful, monotone chant that washes over you and bites right to the bone, and will definitely stay with you throughout the day. Another piece I found of particular note is "Dreaming Through The Eyes Of Serpents," which spotlights Sanders' mastery of the Saz and his ability to wield its powerful hypnotic energy to maximum benefit. "When No Traveler Returns" is a bit more light in texture and tone, but no less deep in structure and effect. Sanders and his guitar teacher, Shawn Allen, playing in unison as well as "duking it out" so to speak, and the result is an astonishing study in technique and performance. There is a cinematic quality to "The Forbidden Path Across The Chasm Of Self-Realization," though it's not as epic as it could be. The legendary David Vincent (Morbid Angel) has a guest spoken word spot, and while it works, I would have much preferred it to be in the style incorporated into the MA classic, "God Of Emptiness." If you don't know what I mean, I'm referring to the "bow to me faithfully, bow to me splendidly..." part. Here, instead of that booming, omnipotent vocal grandeur, we get something that sounds quite plain and dull. The end comes with "Beckon The Sick Winds Of Pestilence," which is fairly chaotic compared to the other tunes on Saurian Meditation, possessing a very apocalyptic, manic feel. Producer Juan "Punchy" Gonzalez performs the drum tracks here and does an excellent job, especially in regard to the enthusiastic avalanche of gongs.
The aforementioned Gonzalez, along with Sanders, and Bob Moore are an intimidating and effective triumvirate when it comes to the clean, sharp aura this record exudes. While all compositions are penned by Sanders, it's with the production team and all the players involved, especially Mike and Pete, that this creative force really gains its momentum. So though this may be a solo record that would be amazing if its sole musician was Sanders, it's earth shattering with all these particular pieces intact. The thoughtful, insightful, and often amusing, explanations about the songs content, origins and the process of recording them, are always interesting to read as well. The otherworldly art of Orion Landau captures the exact essence of the album, though room is left for interpretation.
Bottom Line: There are a few downsides to this record, but not many. This is not a collection of singles. It's very difficult to pick up Saurian Meditation and just select a random tune. Acute attention is mandatory to fully appreciate this album. I'm not too irritated by this fact, but as a busy individual, I wish I had more time to dedicate to Saurian Meditation, as repeat listens are most definitely warranted. Also, some of the tunes are unrelentingly monotonous, and the trance-like state can be too much to take now and again. Yet, these are not really downsides, but small hindrances that must be overcome, and may not affect everyone; perhaps this would be better worded as a forewarning. Buy this record, without expectations, and with some spare time, and you will learn what the moon, stars and whispers on the midnight wind sound like distilled into song.