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A wondrous delight to the senses - 100%

Writhingchaos, May 28th, 2016

Ever since I discovered Nile, I’ve really gone out of my way to discover more ethnic-influenced death metal bands. What I had no clue about was the fact that good old Karl had some other plans up his sleeve and had already released two solo albums. Two! Yeah, believe it or not for some obscure reason or the other, both his releases had bypassed my radar for years until about two years back. And this is in spite of me being a Nile fan. Damn. Oh well, better late than never.

In case you haven’t figured out already by the rating, this album is fucking dope. And this is coming from someone who doesn’t really enjoy a great deal of ambient stuff with the exception of a few artists here and there and a couple of Original Soundtracks. Then again not on an everyday basis and totally depending on my mood. The first day I could be in musical heaven and the second day I could be bored to death listening to pretty much the same album. Thankfully that’s not the case here. Even the mellow repetition of the 9 minute long epic “Of the Sleep Of Ishtar” never gets old in the slightest. I mean seriously this album is pretty much the PERFECT soundtrack to reading about Egyptian history and the pharaohs while being stoned out of your mind. Or just the second option. Then again, depending on where your priorities lie. Parts of the album really bring to mind the blistering unforgiving deserts of the Middle East and people making their way on camels. Sorry for the lame description but it really paints a fascinating yet inexplicable picture in my mind. The rise and fall of the dynamics in this album and the subtle transformations from soft to loud is almost akin to the best of classical music at times. Yep I said it.

On this album Karl showcases his absolute mastery at intelligent and manipulative songwriting since each of the songs pull you in and refuse to let go. Here he uses repetition and unconventional soundscapes to his full advantage creating the perfect atmosphere for you to completely immerse yourself in. Though I don’t do it much, I can imagine that it would be one of the perfect albums to meditate to. Plus the use of traditional Middle Eastern instruments (traditional percussion and a baglama among various others) adds one heck of a magic touch. It is clear that Karl has thoroughly explored the acoustic guitar to great length than most other metal musicians out there and if there are still some deluded souls who think that Nile is soulless boring death metal with a bunch of useless Eastern influences, point them to this album! If this ace of an album doesn’t change their mind, then they probably need to just stick to listening to pop. Heck even the most avid haters of metal could probably end up liking this.

Lastly there are no highlights. If you listen to this album, you need to go all out and treat yourself from start to finish. Period. Not one or two songs here and there. Highly recommended for every single music fan out there and particularly for the ones who have a fetish for middle-eastern music in general.

Sore from Meditation - 70%

marktheviktor, December 26th, 2008

Egyptian mythology has always been a fascinating subject even in metal. The colossal civilization, the mystical traditions and of course the religions through all the dynasties that ruled that section of northeast Africa. Iron Maiden broadly referenced Ancient Egypt in Powerslave but the band that has delved fully into this historical time and place is the technical death metal one known as Nile. Almost all of that band's repertoire is steeped with a yen for the Ithyphallic. I had never even heard that term until Nile self-labeled their music as "Ithyphallic" death metal. A bit on the silly side but if some bands can be labeled Viking metal then I see no problem with it.

Saurian Meditations by Karl Sanders sounds like a soundtrack or annotated exploration of the usual themes found in most any Nile release but mostly without the death growls and complex time signatures throughout the entirety of songs. I did say mostly because Nile's typical guitar solos do creep in on some of the songs. These appearances are the most enjoyable part of Saurian Meditations. Karl Sanders does well to autograph his death metal sound with these appearances.

The album contains a myriad of exotic string instruments and percussive elements not heard everyday. It is all so very precise and beautifully played. The work feels like it has been put together for some years and released especially for Nile fans who really dug the artifacts and history of the Egyptians. For example, the song Whence No Traveller Returns evokes even the smallest fixtures of the culture with its lush strings. I pictured a garden hidden in Amarna. The other track of note is Of the Sleep of Ishtar. This one stood out because of how epic and wonderous it sounded. There is a real landscape painted in singing and atmosphere that paid off magnificently.

There is one musical juxtopostion that gives this album a touch of brilliance and that would be striking acoustic passages in the flavor of the American Deep South. Nile is a band that is based out of South Carolina and it is awesome to hear some of the artist's own immediate influences felt in such a display. To just include grandiosities from a certain period in history would be predictable and obvious but if you know what you are doing, you can take some regional similarities from one place of music and make it sound like it is part of another.

Despite all the spectacular forays into the realms of Ramses, Saurian Meditations is still not without its faults. For one thing, it is just too long winded. I didn't mind the length of some of the songs but most of them just go on forever and I would have liked to have heard a little more of the electric guitar solos. I was interested to see that David Vincent would be appearing on the album. He has a spoken passage in The Forbidden Path Across the Chasm of Self Realisation. Unfortunately, his delivery is laughably stilted. To hear him enunciate the words 'possible' and 'unthinkable' like a southern Californian gave me quite a chuckle. It was hardly worth the trouble bringing him in to do that when Karl could have just done them himself like he did in the great Unas, Slayer of the Gods.

I'm not a huge death metal fan but I actually prefer the technical kind and Nile is one of the bands I don't mind listening to even though they can get a little boring from time to time. While this is not a Nile album, the sound is unmistakably theirs. I enjoyed this alot and do consider this a death metal record despite all the ambiance. It's perfectly played and has authenticity to boot but in a diversionary way. Taking trips into the far reaches of Egyptian culture can be found here. Just don't expect the grueling and torture. Take in the vistas and landscapes before you mount the chariots of war.

The perfect soundtrack for, say, Prince of Persia - 84%

Nhorf, May 17th, 2008

First of all, I'd like to say that ambient isn't my favourite genre of music. I find it to be plodding, uninteresting and, most of all, BORING. And that's where the brilliance of this album is at. While being a totally ambient and calm record, this piece manages to catch your attention and is interesting during most of the time, mainly thanks to the dark atmosphere that it carries. When I'm listening to this record, I feel like I'm returning to the past, to the glorious ancient times of the Egypt, I feel like I'm involved in an evil atmosphere recalling pharaohs, Ra worshipers and all that kind of strange things.

The instrument that absolutely dominates Saurian Meditation is, obviously, the acoustic guitar. Karl Sanders proves here that he is a magnificent acoustic guitar player, since the exotic riffs play the most important role on giving this album that “Egyptian vibe” that I've already stated. Just listen to the opener, Awaiting the Vultures, with its fantastic main riff. It's just amazing how Karl can put so much feeling and atmosphere into a song. But, wait, don't think that the acoustic guitar is the only important instrument, it certainly plays an essential role on this album, but, hey, Saurian Meditation wouldn't be Saurian Meditation without the flawless percussion, always in the background, providing the perfect base for the guitar to shine. There are lots of other instruments too, like flutes, keyboards, sitars, gongs - it's incredibly hard to count how many are played, since all the songs are filled with so many sounds that will require multiple listens in order to totally understand them. The traditional drum set is also used on some songs, with some typical cymbal hits here and there; the electric guitar is also used but, of course, in a smaller portion than the acoustic one.

The production is another important component, since everything is extremely well mixed. The guitars are the loudest instrument of the bunch, but all the other ones are very audible, from the keyboards to the gongs. There is also some vocals on Of the Sleep of Ishtar, delivered by Dallas Wade (who also plays with Sanders in Nile); they give a fantastic atmosphere to that tune and are extremely well sang, since they are very soft and they fit totally well with the music. There is also a spoken part on The Forbidden Path Across the Chasm of Self-Realization and some choir (at least it sounds like a choir) singing on The Elder God Shrine; this use of voice is what keeps those songs more distinctive, since many tracks on Saurian Meditation are very similar and you'll certainly have difficulties when trying to distinguish the tracks. This lack of variety is, indeed, the low point of the album, but can also be viewed as a good thing, because since all the tracks carry the same atmosphere and style, the record is more consistent and solid. In my opinion, it wouldn't be bad if Karl added a slightly heavier song to the tracklist, but, hey, who's complaining, every album has its flaws, isn't it?

Highlights? Awaiting the Vultures is a nice track with a very distinctive main riff, setting the tone for the rest of the album. The Elder God Shrine is another winner, with some Egyptian chants in its middle, which make me really feel like I'm in some shrine built in honour of some ancient Egyptian God. In fact, this brings me to my next point: the importance of the song titles. All of them are very suggestive and the music reflects them very well; take Contemplations of the Endless Abyss, for example. When I'm listening to that song I feel like I'm really contemplating some abyss. With Dreaming Through the Eyes of Serpents, the exact same thing happens. So, the titles play an important role in all the Egyptian atmosphere built by the music. Of the Sleep of Ishtar is maybe the best of the bunch, an absolutely brilliant epic with some electric guitar chops and some very atmospheric vocals (they are beautiful indeed). Obviously, the lyrics speak about Ishtar, an ancient goddess of Egypt. And that's another reason why I like this album so much - I love mythology, especially Greek and Egyptian, so this record is like a dream come true for me. Luring the Doom Serpent is another very distinctive song, with the percussion oddly assuming the main role, even removing some protagonism to the guitar.

Nevexzrtheless, this record also has low points. As I've already said, the similarities between the tunes are a big problem, which can turn the durability of the album into a problem. Anyways, I know few ambient albums that carry such an extraordinary atmosphere and feeling. If you like middle-eastern influenced music, this record is for you. If you are an average metalhead and metal is the only genre you listen to, don't try this. This is not metal, this is just an ambient/atmospheric record - but an ambient and atmospheric record DONE WELL. And the artwork absolutely kicks ass, it perfectly represents the mood of Saurian Meditation (which is a good title, also).

Best Moments of the CD:
-the vocal parts on Of the Sleep of Ishtar and the electric guitar explosion on that same track.
-the chants on The Elder God Shrine and its outro.
-the moment where the main riff of Temple of Lunar Ascension is played for the first time.
-the percussion beginning on Luring the Doom Serpent and the moment when the up-tempo acoustic guitar riffs join the percussion.
(there are lots of other great moments, but those are the first ones I immediately remember)

84 points - If I had an hotel in Cairo, this would be the music I would put in my hotel's elevator. Awesome ambient music, a bit too repetitive sometimes and not a record that you'll want to listen everyday... An amazing piece, nevertheless.

Ra is pleased... - 98%

BastardHead, April 4th, 2008

One should always judge an album on it's own merits, and looking at the score you can clearly see that I did, but I feel it deserves a mention that Saurian Meditation is in some way the usurper that destroyed the creativity of Nile. One thing that made Nile so original was their seamless blending of Egyptian pieces like this album and the melodies that intertwined with their sheer brutality. After this album, it was all gone. Karl not only put the different sounds on separate tracks, but separate fucking albums and bands. So I feel a tad bitter towards this album for enabling Sanders to get all of this out of his system and focus purely on hyperblasting brutality with Nile, but to call this a shitty album should be a capital offense, as this is a mind blowing piece of work.

The one thing that puts Saurian Meditation above the throngs of other faceless ambient projects in the music world, is there is almost never a spot where I feel bored to death. A lot of ambient works tend to drone on and on and on in an attempt to make something "epic" or "mood setting". I call bullshit on this practice, as a lot of people tend to write repetitive garbage that doesn't progress or change at all, which is something I like to call boring as hell. Karl Sanders shows his mastery here as he is able to make every last song interesting and captivating. The atmosphere on this album is wholly encapsulating and really takes me back to the days where the pharaohs ruled over the golden sands.

There are a variety of traditional instruments in use here, from old style Egyptian drums to a freakin' baglama. And even with a wide array of sounds at his fingertips, he maintains a generally restrained take on the songwriting. What I mean by that is nothing is there purely for the sake of being there. Every note from every instrument serves a purpose, whether for buildup or climax, everything falls into place wonderfully. The only, ONLY time the album descends into the pointless wind blowing bollocks that so many atmospheric/ambient bands fall into is Contemplations of the Endless Abyss, and it's probably the only thing holding this album back from a perfect score.

The real highlights to me are the more uptempo numbers (for example, Awaiting the Vultures and The Elder God Shrine), as Karl seems to have a knack for making this project sound metal as hell. Ballsin' A, The Elder God Shrine even has a dirty guitar solo in it, what's not to like? Segments of Luring the Doom Serpent sound like they could be some excellently crushing doom riffs if they were played with some distortion. It is this impeccable talent for songwriting that is shown on this album that leads me to my claim that Karl Sanders is one of the most talented men in death metal today. Even if he spends a majority of his time with a now fairly bland-yet-super-fucking-fast metal output, this album shows above all else his incredibly diverse ability and sheer perfection when it comes to songwriting.

In all, this is an excellent record to relax to, and maybe, while I don't partake, I can imagine it'd make for a great drug trip as well, just a hint for all y'all tokers reading this. To sum up, a near perfect experience that I recommend everybody with ears and a tolerance for anything that isn't naught but raw death blasting intensity. One of the best of '04. That's right, above the likes of Evolution Purgatory, Defying the Rules, Return of the Warrior, Blessed Black Wings, Iron, and even A Celebration of Guilt. About as close to perfect as you can get. I listen to this, and I liken it to having a porn star dispenser in your closet, but without all the grody AIDS and Ron Jeremy stench.

A nice change of pace - 96%

Daemonium_CC, March 27th, 2006

Ok, first of all, I had been waiting for this album for a long time. I had known that Karl was going to do a solo record from way back. In fact, he was planning on calling it 'Iron of Sekhmet' if I remember correctly. I thought it would be incredible for the mastermind of Nile to do an instrumental/ambient record, and awaited it with open arms.

The songwriting talents of Mr. Sanders has never failed to impress me, and this album is no exception. The first track, 'Awaiting the Vultures' is a moody peice with some nice Saz work, and sets the mood of the album very well. It's soft and mellow, and is very relaxing.

The second track, 'Of the Sleep of Ishtar' is even more moody, with tribal drums, and ghost like vocals. There are some feedback/electric guitar sounds, which later paves the way for a beautiful acoustic guitar solo from Mr. Sanders. Once again, very calm and relaxing, and the song finalizes with an emotional electric guitar solo.

Track three is probably one of my favorites from the record. 'Luring the Doom Serpent' is quite perfect in every aspect. It kicks off with some funky tribal drumming, then moves it's way into an infectious acoustic guitar groove, which is quite unusual. Nothing fancy in terms of finger work, but the pace of the song and the melodies from the guitar instantly take you back in time and you can just see yourself standing alone in a desert of sand with the hot sun shining down on your face. An acoustic guitar solo is set perfectly on top of the drums and guitar, creating a very timeless sound. Excellence from start to finish.

'Contemplations of the Endless Abyss' is another unusual peice of music constructed entirely out of a human voice-in this case it's Karl's friend Mike Breazeale, who also did the spoken word part in 'Unas, Slayer of the Gods' for Nile. This track is nothing short of strange, so it will be very hard to describe, but it's definately worth a listen as the boys obviously did a lot of experimenting and had a lot of fun with this particular track.

'The Eldar God Shrine' is another moody peice which kicks in with some more Saz work. The Saz sound itself is pretty good, but could be better. I imagine Karl doesn't have a very high end Saz like the ones we do in Istanbul, but nevertheless it does the job. When it comes to Karl's skills with the instrument, lets just say that there are thousands of people who could play him inside out, but that's not the point here. The point here is the atmosphere which is created, and that is very impressive. Haunted vocals flow together with disturbing Saz melodies make this another interesting listen.

'Temple of Lunar Ascension' is pretty much like the rest of the album, nothing flashy or fancy here, just a great mood and some more Saz work.

'Dreaming Through the Eyes of Serpents' is probably my favorite song off of the entire album. Starting with a Saz which seems to be knocked out of tune, it quickly redeems itself with a truly haunting melody. Close your eyes and let your mind wander where it wishes to, and you will get there. An incredible peice of music with lots of emotion and intelligence. The song is extremely slow and there are lots of spaces in between the Saz lines played, so the echo created naturally is quite awesome. The melodies are so delicate, so fragile, that it seems that they may break or fall apart if they were played in the wrong hands. Hats off to Mr. Sanders for a truly wonderful peice of art he created with this track.

'Whence No Traveller Returns' is also another highlight from the album. For fans of acoustic guitar work (personally I love Al Di Meola and the sort) this song will please you immensely. It features Karls guitar teacher on lead guitar, and they both trade off licks. The foundation of the song is quite emotional and straightforward, but when the leads kick in, watch out. The song starts off in a calm manner, then goes berserk when the guitars start feeding off each other. Incredible. Some of the runs in this song are really quite fantastic. The two guitars can easily be seperated by ear, and Karl gives just as good a performance as his teacher. Definately one of my favorites.

'The Forbidden Path Across the Chasm of Self-Realization' starts off as a nice, haunting track with plenty of atmosphere and a very doomy mood. However, when the spoken word part of David Vincent kicks in, it all gets shot to Hell. David by no means is a bad vocalist, but he just wasn't the right man for this job. It's incredibly cheesy and not convincing in the least. It almost sounds like a joke and totally ruins whatever atmosphere the song had up to that time.

'Beckon the Sick Winds of Pestilence' is another interesting listen, with far out drumming. It sounds like the tribal music that you would hear on the Discovery Channel whilst stoned out of your face, and that's not a bad thing! Once again Karl manages to capture the mood perfectly, and the album finishes in a most triumphant manner.

Note : 4 point deducted for David Vincent sounding like he does.

Trance like an Egyptian. - 85%

caspian, March 13th, 2006

I've always liked the egyptian interludes in Nile records. They've slowly improved over the cd's they've released, and they set the mood of the album very, very well. Still, a 2 minute interlude is one thing, but doing an hour's worth is another. Can Karl Sanders really pull it off? The answer is luckily, yes. This is a great ambient album that is equal to anything in Nile.

This album is really, really good, but it's kind of hard to review it without a ton of pretensious metaphors. But.. It has a huge, massive atmosphere too it. After the first track, which isn't that good, there is the "Of the Sleep of Ishtar", a massive, almost 10 minute epic, full of slow burning synths, gentle acoustic guitars and some haunting, brilliant clean vocals/chant things. It's the most egyptian thing you've ever heard. "Contemplations of the Endless Abyss" is another absolute masterpiece. There's a bit more chanting, but otherwise it's a 4 minute slab of cymbal washes and ambient noise. It's probably the best song on the album. Some songs have a bit of electric guitar leads flying around the place, and while they do sound a bit strange in some parts of the songs, they generally fit quite well. into the mix. There's also a lot of interesting percussion in basically every song here. There's the usual gong/cymbal thing going on, but the percussion in "Luring the Doom Serpent" is quite strange and fairly awesome. While much of this album is played at fairly slow tempos, there's a bit of variation in tempo. "Dreaming through the eyes of Serpents" has some fairly fast guitar playing and is at a decent tempo, as is "The Elder God Shrine." Great song titles too. THat's probably Karl Sanders' greatest skill. Someone should really make a Nile song title generator. It would be awesome.

Anyway.. This is really, really good. It is fairly ambient, but it has got balls. The guitar playing is interesting, the strange instruments all sound great, and in the end, you've got the most egyptian record you've ever heard. Highly recommend for fans of Nile and for people who don't mind their music atmospheric and spookay. Still, you might want to download it first.

Karl Sanders Is A Genius - 95%

corviderrant, August 18th, 2005

My GOD, is this brilliant. I ordered this direct from the label, and only because Karl was out of CDs when I saw Nile here in Houston back in May. And after reading quite a lot about it, I finally see what the fuss is about. Oh, do I ever.

As you may have heard, this is indeed an ambient project, but an ambient project with balls roughly the size of an elephant's. And teeth when Karl's distinctive electric guitar style pokes its head out and wails in anguish, which actually happens pretty often on this CD. This is not some happy, pastel, lighweight New Age/Kitaro kind of thing, this is by turns brooding, dark, melancholy, ominous, and overall packs an immense amount of vibe and soul.

Frequent Nile guest star Mike Breazale does most all the vocals on this CD and does an outstanding job, whether singing pure and clean (like on the beautiful and moving second track, "Of The Sleep Of Ishtar") or providing eerie multi-tracked chants and demonic quasi-growls. His voice is a versatile and often awe-inspiring instrument that gets equal time with the rest of the instruments, and he really needs more exposure. The rest of the vocals are provided by Karl, Nile guitarist Dallas Toler-Wade, and occasionally ex-Nile drummer Pete Hammoura, in a backing capacity. Karl also tackles all the instruments on this record other than the drumming and percussion, handled by Pete in a stellar way, and his arrangements are dense, lushly and meticulously orchestrated, and imposing--best digested in several listens. Not a bad thing, though, that, as it encourages you to keep coming back and absorbing this music into your DNA.

Top tracks for me are: "Of The Sleep Of Ishtar" for its aforementioned beautiful vocals and its sweeping epic arrangement (when the low A drops in the middle of this it's like a bomb hitting such is the impact); "The Elder God Shrine" with its menacing buildups that explode into chanting choruses ("Ia! Ia Dagon!") with simple/powerful drums that set an awe-inspiring groove and a half--you feel like you're in the middle of an unholy temple service of some kind; "Dreaming Through The Eyes of Serpents" for its trancey feel that will suck you in through a straw; "Luring The Doom Serpent" for its impressive flamenco-style guitar playing; "Beckon The Sick Winds of Pestilence" for its ominous hand drumming courtesy of producer Juan "Punchy" Gonzalez and the jaw-dropping wall of wail Karl sets up at the end of this song with two guitars playing off of each other in a slippery intertwining manner conveying a feeling of a lost cause, of people wailing for their dead struck down by disease--one of the most menacing and unsettling songs I've heard in a while. And even though I know it's coming, David Vincent's apocalyptic Orson Welles-style voice over near the end of "The Forbidden Path Across The Chasm of Self-Realization" still makes me jump such is the power of his commanding voice.

Open your mind up to this and let it pull you into the ancient world that is Karl Sanders' immense and deep imagination. If you can hang with Opeth's epics and such, you can hang with this. Give this man your money, he deserves it. It's not metal, but still it is brilliant and worthy of consideration.

Ancient glories live again... - 85%

Sierra_Nevada, November 30th, 2004

Though I am not much of a Nile fan, I at least appreciate their efforts to inject some sort of originality into their music. However, with Saurian Meditation, Karl Sanders has created something he can be truly proud of.

For those of you who have not heard it yet, Saurian Meditation is an ancient Egyptian-themed atmospheric album, driven mainly by acoustic guitar work, hand drums, and chanted vocals. There are some places - particularly in the song "The Elder God Shrine" where electric guitar solos are used, to a somewhat confusing but generally favorable degree.

High points include the songs "Awaiting the Vultures," for setting the dark, brooding mood of the album, "Contemplations of the Endless Abyss," as a musical exploration of the realms of death, and "Beckon The Sick Winds Of Plague," for its use of electric guitar as an ambient device. But the highlight of the album by far is "Of The Sleep Of Ishtar", a simple, nine and a half-minute hymn in praise to the goddess of the same name.

To get an idea of what listening to this album is like, picture yourself wandering into an ancient and forgotten crypt. As the rays of the burning sun stream in over your shoulder, you see the decrepified mummies of the ancient world - priests, kings, retainers - all around you. Their belongings, which they were meant to take with them on their journey to the afterlife, are covered with dust. A hot, dry breeze blows into the crypt behind you, stirring the dust that the ages have laid down, and for a brief moment you hear the ancient mummies' ephemeral whispering of past glories and ancient rites. After, you emerge back into the sunlight, wondering if it was all just a dream. Ancient Egypt may be buried by the sands of time, but some of it lives again here on this album.