Review Summary: Tiamat's debut album sets the bar for the low quality work that will make up the majority of their discography.
Tiamat was an early entry into the barely developing doom genre back in 1990 when they released their debut album, Sumerian Cry
. Much like Paradise Lost
who also released their debut album that year, Tiamat’s first release was an underdeveloped collection of ideas that short of setting the elements in place for future doom bands has very little in the way of redeeming qualities. Unlike Paradise Lost, though, this album had a more extensive collection of ideas and elements to use in order to try to release something interesting; although they failed anyway. What ended up coming from those elements is an album that pulls just as often from the speed of death metal as it does from the slower pace of the doom scene, over which is added the occasional goth melody or keyboard part, and all used to achieve stunningly mediocre results.
I know I keep comparing this to Paradise Lost’s album that was released the same year, but again, like Paradise Lost, this album starts with the metal-standard useless intro except this one at least manages to use keyboards and acoustic guitars and not just sound like noise, but the end result will be the same; indifference. In what will be my last reference to Paradise Lost’s debut (I promise) the riffs on this album all seem to be pulled from the same minimalistic collection of fuzzy power chords except that they are occasionally sped up to accommodate the larger death metal influence found on this album. Despite the fact that Tiamat felt compelled to add more elements to their music such as the occasional keyboard part and a greater use of dynamics through their transitions from slow doom sections to faster death metal sections the album still turned out to be a horribly mediocre and redundant affair.
The redundancy that this album is so guilty of cannot be entirely attributed to the use of a few generic riffs used repeatedly over the course of the album; there are other guilty parties here as well. Another guilty party in this exercise in mediocrity is that of their drummer. His playing is painfully basic and boring; from the hollow thuds of his unchanging faster parts to the standard time-keeping of the slower parts, he never manages to even sound average let alone interesting. Literally every fast section on the album has the same redundant pounding, causing songs that already have very little in the way of individual identity to have even less. When your entire backing band is excruciatingly sub-par you as a vocalist have two options, don’t try hard because they’re not or try to pull the quality up on your own.
Johan Edlund, it seems, chose to go with the first choice and try to be as generic as possible as well. His growls are some of the worst I’ve heard in the genre; they are neither powerful nor interesting. Throughout the course of every song his growls are weak, monotone and don’t even vary in volume, let alone pitch. When you combine the repeated use of generic, lifeless riffs with dull, redundant drumming and add over it all some of the most monotone and weak death vocals I’ve heard and you’re left with an album that takes an act of will to not just shut off by the third or fourth track. In case you’re wondering about the keyboards I mentioned earlier, they are as ineffective as everything else, but are thankfully used sparingly since quite often their inclusion in any song is laughably bad.
Despite releasing one of the earliest doom albums there is a reason that no one really considers Tiamat a forerunner or even an originator of the doom scene, and it is because all three of their doom/death albums were horrible. The riffs were consistently generic and undeveloped, as was the percussion, and somehow the vocals continued to get worse from one album to the next. I can safely say that regardless of how much you love doom or death metal or even future releases from this band, you need to avoid this as it is a total waste of your time and effort. On their debut album Tiamat somehow managed to release one of the worst albums the genre has to offer, and what’s more is that they somehow managed to gain fans through this garbage. The only thing I have to say is that anyone who has followed Tiamat since their debut has much more loyalty then I do.