Tiamat

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Sumerian Cry

Tiamat - Sumerian Cry ©1990 Deadline
1. Intro-Sumerian Cry (Part I)
2. In The Shrines Of The Kingly Dead
3. The Malicious Paradise
4. Necrophagious Shadows
5. Apothesis Of Morbidity
6. Nocturnal Funeral
7. Altar Flame
8. Evilized
9. Where The Serpents Ever Dwell
10. Outro-Sumerian Cry (Part II)
11. The Sign Of The Pentagram

Frankly, this is quite a boring platter of low-tuned deathy growling and midpaced playing. Regardless of where Tiamat went (and that place is amazing), their beginnings were amusing at best and commonplace at worst. Sumerian Cry's recent reissue is only of note for Tiamat completists (I admit I'm guilty of that) or for people who just shun any sort of musical development in their death metal and must have the 100% bland in their collection. There are very few interesting moments in this album. Very few indeed. Sure, if you want to hear dry riffs played slowly or listen to Johan Edlund growl half-heartedly, this may be the album for you. Needless to say, their experimentation with atmospheric and non-standard death metal elements is hinted at on this album but doesn't even begin to touch the following two albums: The Astral Sleep and Clouds. For new Tiamat inductees, I would suggest those two albums to start.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 02/1999

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The Astral Sleep

Tiamat - The Astral Sleep ©1991 Century Media
1. Neo Aeon (intro)
2. Lady Temptress
3. Mountain Of Doom
4. Dead Boys Quire
5. Sumerian Cry (part III)
6. On Golden Wings
7. Ancient Entity
8. The Southernmost Voyage
9. Angels Far Beyond
10. I Am The King (of Dreams)
11. The Seal (outro)

Compared to their earlier Sumerian Cry, Tiamat's The Astral Sleep is a high flying kite riding far up in the atmosphere (yet still quite a bit below the Clouds and other points in the stratosphere). Adding a more far-reaching set of variables to their music, Tiamat went from bland death metal to something much more interesting. The keyboards, a decent set of rumbling, rolling riffs and a bit of an improvement in Johan Edlund's grunting do a lot to help out The Astral Sleep. Essentially this album is enjoyable on a minor level but with the competition in its own discography, I find myself reaching for other Tiamat albums when I'm in the mood to hear something from the band. Definitely more advanced and intelligent than most of its 1991 brethren, Tiamat at its least interesting is still pretty darned good.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 07/1999


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Clouds

Tiamat - Clouds ©1992 Century Media
1. In A Dream
2. Clouds
3. Smell Of Incense
4. A Caress Of Stars
5. The Sleeping Beauty
6. Forever Burning Flame
7. The Scapegoat
8. Undressed

Easily the tastiest of the pre-Wildhoney albums, Clouds is another dream and sleep obsessed journey into Tiamat's unique atmospheric death metal. Actually, death metal is misleading as a term here because the band had so far ventured into their new musical territory that only Johan Edlund's rough and very thick voice was a real reminder of their past. Clouds was still reminiscient of the previous year's The Astral Sleep. However, the songs were more developed and realized. The guitars were still chunky but more serene parts, such as the wash of quiet keyboards over a throbbing bassline in "Forever Burning Flame", were beginning to dominate. The general feel of the album is one of isolated pensiveness. The production is not quite warm enough to allow the listener for a perfect, cozy listen, but it is fairly appropriate for Edlund's continued obsession with the realm of dreams and sleep.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 07/1999


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The Sleeping Beauty - Live In Israel

Tiamat - The Sleeping Beauty - Live In Israel ©1994 Century Media
1. In A Dream
2. Ancient Entity
3. The Sleeping Beauty
4. Mountain Of Doom
5. Angels Far Beyond

I'm not precisely sure of the need for this five song live EP as the somewhat muddy sound quality and brevity do not exactly scream for necessity of purchase. The liner notes proudly state no overdubs were done after the 1993 live recording and that is quite obvious. The material is taken from The Astral Sleep and Clouds and the lack of a studio environment harms the songs to a large degree. The keyboards, which create an integral part of Tiamat's sound and discards the wonderful atmosphere of the studio recordings. Moreover, Johan Edlund's vocals are roughshed and hoarse. To be honest, there is little motivation for ever playing this live album considering the studio albums are far more enticing in both quality and sound. Unless you see this for less than a buck, you really aren't going to miss out on much if you never get ahold of this one.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 01/2001

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Wildhoney

Tiamat - Wildhoney ©1994 Century Media
1. Wildhoney
2. Whatever That Hurts
3. The Ar
4. 25th Floor
5. Gaia
6. Visionaire
7. Kaleidoscope
8. Do You Dream Of Me?
9. Planets
10. A Pocket Sized Sun

You knew that even the most grouchy of the death bands have a romantic, giddy side to them. A side that screams out for sensitivity and compassion. A side that is the voice of the inner child just begging to be let out and play. A few years back, Tiamat was as deathy as they came, though they exhibited a tendency for weaving atmostphere into their death art. Somewhere since, the inner children of Johan Edlund and Johnny Hagel kicked out the other members of the band and picked up studio musicians to conquer their new realm of musical fantasy.

Today's Tiamat is hardly the HP Lovecraft horror wonder, capable of terrifying even the most stalwart of the corpse painted. Instead, Edlund and Hagel, along with producer Waldemar Sorychta, reach into the stratosphere, retaining only a hint at their former death days. Edlund still has the hoary voice, as evidenced in "Visionaire", but it can wax more romantic in the lilting "Do You Dream Of Me?". Musically, the guitars intertwine and playfully chase each other on Floydian trips. Keyboards pose both lush and vague, keeping the listener soaring in trance. "Planets" strikes as something Orbital might kick out on a dreary afternoon and "25th Floor" could easily been a stop for Skinny Puppy. Meanwhile, guitars sprinkle in the closer "A Pocket Sized Sun".

Even since Wildhoney was released, Tiamat has become a sort of guidepost for all the other bands leading into this unexplored genre. The Gathering chucked their death singers and found a gem in Anneke van Geirsbergen. Celestial Season threw in some violins and groove while countless others have picked up keyboards to trinkle away. Atmosphere is a difficult thing to achieve in heavy music, but Tiamat has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is entirely possible and in fact, a beautiful and monstrous addition to the expanding realm of metal.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 12/1996

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The Musical History Of Tiamat

Tiamat - The Musical History Of Tiamat ©1995 Century Media
CD one:
1. Where The Serpents Ever Dwell
2. The Sign Of The Pentagram
3. Ancient Entity
4. Dead Boys Choir
5. The Southernmost Voyage
6. A Winter Shadow
7. Smell Of Insence
8. A Caress Of Stars
9. The Sleeping Beauty
10. When You're In
11. Visionaire
12. Do You Dream Of Me?
13. A Pocket Sized Sun
CD two:
14. Whatever That Hurts
15. The Ar
16. In A Dream
17. 25th Floor
18. Gaia
19. Visionaire
20. Kaleidoscope
21. Do You Dream Of Me?
22. The Sleeping Beauty
23. A Pocket Sized Sun

Released as an limited edition double digi-pack CD, The Musical History of Tiamat is a pretty decent summation of Tiamat's journey up to Wildhoney and effectively ended the era that still contained heavy music. (Of course, I'd argue that Tiamat's post-Wildhoney music was still quite heavy, though in an entirely different manner.) The first disc travels chronologically through the band's earliest and least interesting death sludge material but shows their progression with each and every album. By the time you reach Clouds era material, you're getting to the meat'n'potatoes of Tiamat with their heaviness and atmospheric music blending nearly seamlessly. The second disc reprises nearly all of Wildhoney live and comes off one hundred percent better than the Sleeping Beauty live album released earlier in the band's career. Johan Edlund's vocals are a bit rougher than the studio counterparts, but overall it's a solid sound incorporating all the elements of the album well. Even the experimental "Do You Dream of Me" smokes with some very sharp lead guitar picking finishing out the song. Naturally this item is for Tiamat hardcore fans in particular, so for me it's a wonderful addition to my Tiamat collection. For casual fans or newbies, aim for Wildhoney and Clouds to start your journey.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/1999

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A Deeper Kind Of Slumber

Tiamat - A Deeper Kind Of Slumber ©1997 Century Media
1. Cold Seed
2. Teonanacatl
3. Trillion Zillion Centipedes
4. The Desolate One
5. Atlantis As A Lover
6. Alteration X 10
7. Four Leary Biscuits
8. Only In My Tears It Lasts
9. The Whores Of Babylon
10. Kite
11. Phantasma
12. Mount Marilyn
13. A Deeper Kind Of Slumber

Before we get anywhere else with this review, let's just say that this album would have been benefited greatly (at least in principle) by being released under a different band name. After all, this represents a band that is nothing similar to their previous releases (maybe excepting Wildhoney). It's my belief that when a band (or a single remaining member, as in Tiamat's case) changes/progresses/whatever you want to call it to an enormous degree, changing the band name should reflect it. Oh wait...record companies want name recognition in the store.

Lecture over. Let's talk about this album. I like it. It's definitely an entirely new ballgame for Tiamat, as they fully immerse themselves in the Pink Floyd/acid hip-hop/trance music. But I like that genre quite a bit. And Johan Edlund (the sole survivor in Tiamat) has mastered it well. Let's just list what this album offers (or doesn't offer):

  • A great catchy guitar line in the opening track "Cold Seed". Probably as metal as the album gets (which is barely at all).

  • No gutteral death vocals. Edlund sings this cleanly all the way through even though his voice isn't technically the best, it still conveys the emotions necessary for a project this grand.

  • Pretty keyboard sections (like the intro to "Atlantis as a Lover")

  • Beatles emulation (they have a sitar jam at one point)

  • Long Pink Floyd musical passages like in the centerpiece of the album, "Mount Marilyn". They really do it well, that.

  • Some of the best music you're going to hear in any genre in 1997...

I've seen a lot of varying reviews of this album in the European press. My recommendation is that if you are into metal and don't like the sounds of what's above...don't even bother. You'll be spending fifteen dollars on a shiny coaster. But if you are the type who does appreciate the idea of progression, this is excellent and my favorite album of 1997.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 09/1997

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Skeleton Skeletron

Tiamat - Skeleton Skeletron ©1999 Century Media
1. Church Of Tiamat
2. Brighter Than The Sun
3. Dust Is Our Fare
4. To Have And Have Not
5. For Her Pleasure
6. Diyala
7. Sympathy For The Devil
8. Best Friend Money Can Buy
9. As Long As You Are Mine
10. Lucy

I have decided that Johan Edlund has the ability to write music that, no matter what style he tries, will capture my attention. From my first listen to Wildhoney to the fully mind-blowing perfection of A Deeper Kind of Slumber (which is my favorite album of 1997), Edlund's Tiamat has been a constant source for tapping into my melancholy, dreamy side that no other band has quite been able to approach. Naturally considering how much I have listened to and loved A Deeper Kind of Slumber, the follow up album was going to be approached with a very critical eye. Would Edlund be able to summon up that sort of songwriting yet again to fully place me in rapture? Or would he create "Perfect Album Follow Up Letdown"?

The answer actually lies in the middle, with a tendency to lean towards the positive end of that spectrum. Skeleton Skeletron, aside from having a mildly silly title, is certainly a strong album. This time out, Edlund supposedly is attempting "urban music" (his description, not mine) rather than the more "naturistic" material of the past couple outings. In other words, there's more distorted guitar here than atmospheric, ethereal keyboards. However, it must be noted that even when the songwriting tries to be heavier and more aggressive, Tiamat is very much entrenched in a dreamlike stasis. Of course, this is a good thing. To a certain degree, there is a goth tinge to the picture, reminiscient of where Sundown (formerly Cemetary) headed on their Design 19 album. But as Tiamat's cover of "Sympathy for the Devil" demonstrates, this is one band that creates best in a deep sleep state. That cover actually is a great mid-album attention grabber and is easily the best and most original version I've heard of that highly annoying Rolling Stones song. On the original songs, Tiamat is still able to retain the melancholy, pensive vibe of the past on songs like "To Have and Have Not", "Best Friend Money Can Buy" or the album opener, "Church of Tiamat". Overall, I've found myself playing this record over and over as it matches the current autumn season outside. I don't think that Skeleton Skeletron will quite live up to its predecessor, but it does a more than admirable job of being a superb album.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 10/1999

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Review #2:

Skeleton Skeletron, Tiamat return to a heavier guitar sound, all the while retaining the lush, heavily layered ambience that distinguishes their previous effort, A Deeper Kind of Slumber. Keyboards continue their prominence, but the inclusion of guitar rhythms provides a feeling of immediacy that is not present in their last album. Thusly, Skeleton Skeletron requires fewer listens to absorb, though much can still be discovered by way of subsequent explorations within its layered sonic tapestry.

The album remains at a moderately slow tempo for its entirety, a pace kept steady by the percussion and Johan Edlund's eerie vocals. But calling Skeleton Skeletron monotonous would be an outrageous untruth, as Tiamat vary the music early and often by mixing dynamics and tone color. Some, such as "Brighter Than the Sun", are ideal songs for singles, while others are merely in place to round out the album. That is not to say the album is weak; on the contrary, Skeleton Skeletron is a solid, moving piece of work. "Brighter Than the Sun" and the Rolling Stones tune "Sympathy For the Devil" are judiciously accompanied by a soulful female voice, while "Lucy" contains in the background lines of preternatural melodrama, spoken in French, again by a female. "To Have and Have Not" is a splendid instance of theme and variations, somewhat of a departure from the verse/refrain structure that Tiamat use for the majority of their songs. Edlund's harsh, discordant singing suits the music well, as do the contents of his lyrics. Strange, and slightly disturbing, the text has a distinctly modern, cosmopolitan feel; the artwork inside the booklet also convey this theme. The lyrics range from a rather un-Christian description of the "Church of Tiamat" to an association with a prostitute in "Lucy". While nothing in this album strikes me as particularly groundbreaking or spectacular, I can unhesitatingly recommend Skeleton Skeletron to all fans of gothic music and gothic metal.

Review by Jeffrey Shyu

Review date: 11/1999

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Judas Christ

Tiamat - Judas Christ ©2002 Century Media
1. Return Of The Son Of Nothing
2. So Much For Suicide
3. Vote For Love
4. The Truth Is For Sale
5. Fireflower
6. Sumer By Night
7. Love Is As Good As Soma
8. Angel Holograms
9. Spine
10. I Am In Love With Myself
11. Heaven On High
12. Too Far Gone
13. Cold Last Supper

I honestly have a soft spot for Tiamat and Johan Edlund's music, but let's just get down to brass tacks right away. Somewhere in the past five years the man has completely lost the ability to write the phenomenal music that captivated me on Wildhoney and A Deeper Kind of Slumber. I had hopes that Edlund would work out his personal kinks on the tepid Lucyfire release from last year. However, Judas Christ has turned out to be a rather lackluster, bland and entirely dismaying album that will only further spiral this band down the drain.

The biggest problem with Judas Christ is not that it completely and totally blows chunks on an initial listen. No sir, it's much more subtle than that. I bought this CD awhile ago and listened to it exactly once before shelving it and forgetting that Tiamat had even released another album. Finally it occurred to me that it was sitting on my shelf and subsequent listens have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that yes, this is fetid compost. Those who have had problems with Edlund's rough lyrics in the past will certainly roll their eyes at the use of "snuggly bunnies" in "Love is as Good as Soma". Those who have problems with the cliche ridden goth-metal approach first ventured out on Skeleton Skeletron will definitely want to avoid this album like the black death. For the most part, the motif is similar to that of Lucyfire's approach, but with a slightly more "dreamy" edge to the music. Or nightmarish, if bland, hokey goth music sounds like a horrible way to spend your R.E.M sleep. There a couple songs that are somewhat okay, such as the single "Vote for Love" or "Angel Holograms", but they're not enough to drag this record from the morass of horridness.

It's a shame that Tiamat has chosen to release such a forgettable, mindnumbingly dull record such as Judas Christ. It won't, by any means, diminish the band's incredible high points from the mid 90s, but it certainly will make me think twice before ever purchasing future music from them.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 06/2002

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Amanethes

Tiamat - Amanethes ©2008 Nuclear Blast
1. The Temple of the Crescent Moon
2. Equinox of the Gods
3. Until the Hellhounds Sleep Again
4. Will They Come?
5. Lucienne
6. Summertime Is Gone
7. Katarraktis Apo Aima
8. Raining Dead Angels
9. Misantropolis
10. Amanitis
11. Meliae
12. Via Dolorosa
13. Circles
14. Amanes

At one point, Tiamat was one of my very favorite artists, particularly after the trio of good-to-great atmospheric metal releases in the 90s. Wildhoney, A Deeper Kind of Slumber and (to a lesser extent) Clouds were prime examples of blending new sounds into an extreme metal foundation and coming up with marvelous results. Then came Johan Edlund's fascination with gothic music and the ensuing trio of albums (Skeleton Skeletron, Judas Christ and Prey) did wonders in losing my attention. While one foray into gothic tinged metal could be seen as forgiveable, as Skeleton Skeletron is at least a decent effort, continuing down the path for as long as Tiamat did essentially removed them from my ranks of "really darned good bands".

Amanethes, their first effort in several years, finds Tiamat remembering their roots just a bit and losing quite a bit of the gothic overtones. This, in itself, is nearly cause for feverous celebration and much rejoicing. Of course, upon further listens, Amanethes proves it's hardly up to the caliber of the 90s material, but at least it's a step towards a more interesting sound for Tiamat. The band does try to be heavy once in awhile and brooding in other spots, with varying degrees of success. To be honest, the first half of the album is weaker than the second half. The album's length is over an hour and could easily be trimmed by a few songs for more impact. For those who miss the band's deathier origins, Edlund breaks out his hoarse voice for "Raining Dead Angels". However, that sort of thing is not commonplace on the album. Tracks like "Meliae" feature piano, acoustic guitar and gentle sounds. And since it doesn't feel like a Sisters of Mercy stab, it actually works out okay.

This album strikes me as a band who is trying to regain a unique spot with their music. Personally, I feel that Edlund should lock himself away in his bedroom with the Swans back catalogue (particularly the years covered on Various Failures) and then blast a few of his favorite metal records shortly thereafter to see, you know, what happens. Much of Amanethes feels a bit under-realized and tepid. It's good to hear Tiamat move away from the direction of the past three albums, but this step still feels a bit halting and unsure of itself.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 05/2008

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