Review Summary: The album that realizes the potential found on their previous release, Wildhoney.
Tiamat are a band that, in my mind, have had three separate eras already. Their original era would encompass the first three albums full of slow, mediocre doom. Their second era would include this album and Wildhoney
and would be their “Floyd-inspired” era, and the final era (so far) would be everything after this album which is generic gothic rock. In case it isn’t obvious, I’m not a big fan of their first or third era, but I love the two albums that make up the second one.
Without rehashing the Wildhoney
review, that album found the band incorporating a lot of Pink Floyd
-styled influence into their brand of goth/doom metal. It saw an increased use of lush keyboards, clean guitars, and clean singing. Like most transitional albums, though, it did have its minor awkward moments (most notably in the lyrics and the transitions from one song to the next). This album is the one that saw Tiamat overhaul the awkward moments of Wildhoney
as well as add an abundance of electronic effects and beats (and drop the death-vocals completely).
One of the reasons that this album is so much better is in its consistency. With the exception of the opening song, the whole album has a uniform feel; a dark vibe that is wrapped up in an almost dream-like package. The second track, “Teonanacatl”, introduces that dark, mellow, atmosphere with a sound that most closely resembles the tracks of Wildhoney
. With its slow, slightly distorted guitar, Johan Edlund’s raspy vocals, subtle synth melodies and electronic interludes, this song is the perfect way to set the stage for the rest of the album.
Most of the songs after the second track take on a more formless approach where the melodies create a feeling of simply drifting to the music; but with something almost sinister right below the surface. On a track such as “Atlantis as a Lover”, the song simply creeps forward with a soothing keyboard melody, subtle notes from a guitar, and a minimal drum beat, but underneath all of that there still seems to be something unsettling. Whether it is from a vocal part or a keyboard melody that suddenly changes from soothing to eerie, the band always keeps the listener slightly uncomfortable. It brings to mind the slogan that they used to have printed on their shirts that stated, “That which is most beautiful is often only evil in disguise”.
As the album progresses, they delve farther into the Floyd territory while still retaining the dark atmosphere they created and sustained since the second track. They begin to include the soulful solos and lush keyboards that are found all over a stereotypical Floyd track and Johan’s vocals lose most the rasp and take on a very clean tone. Mixed with this increased influence are the new electronic elements found in the rhythmic accentuation to the main beat in “Only in my Tears it Lasts” or the Industrial edge on “The Whores of Babylon”.
Starting with “Phantasma De Luxe” the band finishes the job by allowing the album to entirely live up to its name. The final three songs are all mellow and meandering in nature, featuring minimal instrumentation in the way of actual guitar parts or lively drumming, but it works. “Mount Marilyn” especially lives up to the album title by increasing the track length to just over ten minutes of dark, subdued vocals that often include indistinct whispers, accompanied by a somber, clean guitar melody that only occasionally is accentuated by a second distorted guitar riff.
I know that some may disagree because they like the death vocals that are still a small part of Wildhoney, but for me, this is the album where Tiamat lived up to their full potential (before nose-diving into gothic rock mediocrity). The song writing is strong and memorable, the atmosphere that is created is like being in a dream where it feels like something is watching you, but you never actually see it, and that vibe is consistent and sustained throughout the course of the album. In addition, Johan’s vocals are improved greatly from past outputs, and the production is near flawless. Due to the mixture of influences I can’t say who this might appeal to the most, so I won’t venture any guesses and will instead allow you to decide for yourself if this sounds like something you could enjoy.