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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.