KARL SANDERS – Saurian Exorcisms (2009)

51k7ll9vwl_ss500_ At last, some signs of life from The End Records. As many of you may know, I (until the last year or so) revered this label; the amount of wild, original material that bands on their roster put out was consistent to the point of being alarming. But lately, the label has been dealing more and more in hard-rock revivalists (Early Man, The Answer) and seemingly paradoxical fringe populist grabs (Mindless Self Indulgence, and, most recently and inexplicably, The Lemonheads) than it has been in the alluring weirdness of bands like Unexpect or Estradasphere. The Answer’s latest album, Everyday Demons, was one that I didn’t much care for one way or the other. All this makes Karl Sanders’ second solo album, Saurian Exorcisms all the more relevant; it’s the first album The End has put out in a while that’s worthy of bearing the label’s name.

Karl Sanders, for those of you who do not know, is the principal songwriter for the Egyptian-themed death metal band Nile (a band who, although both devastating and atmospheric, tend to get written off as a gimmick-driven vehicle far more than they should). Mr. Sanders released his first solo album, Saurian Meditation in 2004; that album contained some of the man’s finest musical work (particularly in the songs Of The Sleep of Ishtar and Dreaming Through The Eyes of Serpents). Now, some five years later, we have another solo album from the man, this one being even more naturalistic and expansive than its predecessor.

You’ll notice I used the word “naturalistic” in that last paragraph. No, that’s not a mistake; Saurian Exorcisms, like Saurian Meditation is not a metal album by any stretch of the imagination. But whereas Meditation married both Sanders’ love of Egyptian and Middle-Eastern folk with his love of electric guitar, Exorcisms is a strictly acoustic affair, with Sanders performing most of the barrage of instruments (which includes Baglama Saz and a custom Glissentar from Godin, as well as standard acoustic guitars as well as all manner of percussion/vocals). It’s a passionate, entrancing album and although it sometimes gets a little carried away with itself (Kali Ma could easily fit in a parody video of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom), it’s great to hear an artist commit themselves as fully to their vision as Sanders does here, even if he does occasionally overstep his bounds.

It goes without saying that any fans of Nile need to check this (and Saurian Meditation) out, but for anyone out there who might be looking for a folk album that’s a bit left of center, Saurian Exorcisms just might be the thing you’re looking for.

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