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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.