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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.