Tarantula AD wanders a distant wilderness like a band of mystic Israelites. The hyphen-inclined might call Book of Sand
, the band's second full-length, "world-folk-chamber-metal." Not us, though. We'd prefer to describe it as The Ten Commandments
soundtrack, played by some brainy dudes with a flair for tasteful heshing. Arena-slaying electric guitars and drums have never been so well paired with cello and piano. Mostly instrumental and classically oriented, Book of Sand
yields an absorbing, almost narrative progression. Middle Eastern modalities, birdcalls, bagpipes, harmonium, and indefinable electronic incantations add notable atmosphere. After 30-some minutes of thrilling, meandering ruminations, the band coalesces into full-on gypsy jam on "Palo Borracho." And when Devendra Banhart shows up on "The Century Trilogy III: The Fall," a smoldering epic dirge that closes the album, his weird, giddy warble stands out like a burning bush. You'll be hard-pressed to find anything more original this year.