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Music Review: Karl Sanders – Saurian Exorcisms

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With cavernous, swelling feeling and spine-chilling sonicscapes, Karl SandersSaurian Exorcisms is a stunning piece of work.

Many might know Sanders best as the founding member of Nile, a death metal band accented by Egyptian overtones. His rapid, skillful guitar work is the stuff of legends in the death metal world, with Sanders ranked fourth in Decibel Magazine's 20 Best Death Metal Guitar Players of All Time.

With his solo work, Sanders concentrates on his passion for Egyptian themes. In 2004 Saurian Meditation introduced listeners to compelling moods and featured a significant shift in tone from what many fans were used to. The Nile interludes blossomed into full songs, branching out through Sanders’ command of Eastern Mediterranean instruments like the bağlama saz.

The follow-up to Saurian Meditation, Saurian Exorcisms, draws the listener even deeper into Sanders’ headspace. This time, he’s doing it all himself.

Sanders delivers a sonic tour de force, playing bağlama saz, Glissentar, keyboards, drums, acoustic guitars, guitar synth, and additional percussion. He also provides some vocals, while Mike Breazeale contributes the odd chant.

Saurian Exorcisms really is a cataclysmic piece. Sanders has created works of reverberation, character, and atmosphere. Some may characterize this as the ideal soundtrack for a haunted house or perhaps a little light weekend devil-worshipping, as the subterranean mood resonates with ominous quality.

The ability of these sounds to summon visuals is astonishing, as pieces like “Dying Embers of the Aga Mass SSSratu” swarm with tortuous pitch, disturbing chanting, and evil air.

With the lights off and a few candles lit, Saurian Exorcisms is enough to scare the bejeezus out of the listener. As voices and instruments rise and fall off in the distance, the shadowy claw of the music takes hold. Sounds are bewildering, entrancing, and grave. Sanders has created an ornamentation of bottomless, imperative sound and has layered some truly beautiful music throughout.

The instrumentation and ethereal chanting of “Slavery unto Nitokris” is another example of the broad inventive adventure Sanders is taking his listeners on. It’s hard not to imagine a marching pack of orcs or goblins, perhaps from Middle Earth, as he conjures his wicked magic.

While Saurian Exorcisms can be a very fear-provoking piece of work, there is also a philosophical foundation of harmony and calm in these pieces. Sanders has created an intensely intricate work, transferring his love and fascination of Egyptian culture into the shadows. The final results are enthralling.

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