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Trite. - 75%

ForNaught, May 19th, 2009

Tiamat’s Gaia EP is most definitely a curio that belongs strictly in the domain of the collector. Following on the heels of the seminal Wildhoney, this represents a fairly trivial addition to the body of work surrounding that incredible release. It presents only two new tracks, one of which is a remix, in addition to four alternate versions of songs from Wildhoney.

These four edited songs are simply the versions that were used in the album’s two videos, a radio edit of The AR, and a “remixed longform version” of Visionaire. The latter is slightly longer than the album version, but the mix is not sufficient to give it its own character or present it as a separate entity from the album version in any way. The other three are all shorter than the album versions—a trimmed intro here, a slightly less meandering outro or bridge section there—but ultimately, none of them stand out from the original versions. They are certainly a little more concise, but the slightly bloated and meandering nature of Wildhoney is an important aspect of its character. In any case, they do not sound hugely different, and actually require careful listening to identify the changes, with the exception of the title track which has been basically halved in length and is much more obviously different, and less absorbing.

As to the so-called “new” material—the first offering is a remix of The AR. It is interesting, for sure, but still not hugely notable. The song has been effectively deconstructed, so that it sounds very different to the original piece. The metal guitars and indeed vocals are gone entirely; overall it sounds akin to a more involved exploration of the ever-so-slightly industrial sounding middle section of the song. The same pulsing almost-percussion, droning synths, and distant shrieking sounds are in place. The sparse guitar chords, Johan’s little speech, and some subtle choir-like keyboards are in place towards the end of the piece also. It’s quite neat for what it is, but ultimately not something that I’m drawn into listening to often. All of the same positive aspects are supplied just as well by the original version of The AR, and in a less abstract manner besides.

The other new track is called When You’re In. This is a cover version of a less-known Pink Floyd song. It takes the form of an instrumental jam, focussed around a handful of riffs. I do like this one a lot, it has to be said—it really feels like a loose, lazy band session, rather than the fairly meticulous and detail-obsessive styles showcased on Wildhoney and A Deeper Kind of Slumber. It has a rather relaxed atmosphere, and the combination of Pink Floyd riffs and Tiamat’s style at the time works very well indeed. This is no coincidence, I suspect. This song is certainly the one most worth exploring of this release’s new pair.

So, if only one song is actually worth going to any effort to hear, why have I given this a relatively high rating? Well, the fact is inescapable that the music is generally very good. The four Wildhoney songs bring nothing new to the table, but they are still great pieces of music. If you’ve hear the full-length then you know what they’re about. Slightly harsh vocals, wonderfully soaring keyboard melodies, and some reasonably simple but very effective guitar riffs swirl and combine to form four great songs. Some almost tribal and quite captivating drumming complements these, particularly on Whatever That Hurts. Stylistically, these are all metal—indeed, they are the four most metal tracks on the fairly experimental Wildhoney. However it is metal tinged with progressive and experimental influences. The blend is not that extreme, but it’s quite beautiful and very interesting. The title track, particularly, is simply superb. Regrettably much of that piece’s very memorable guitar lead work has been omitted from this version.

However, simply due to the edited and broken-up nature of this release, it simply cannot compete with Wildhoney. Although having the four metal tracks in one place with all of the interludes and softer songs cut may appeal to a sub-set of listeners, it must be said that a key virtue of Wildhoney is the way that the album as a whole is constructed, with the songs all flowing into one another and forming a cohesive whole. This doesn’t happen, and once stripped of context, the individual pieces each lose a certain element of their majesty and impact.

Fortunately, the content of this release is now available without having to buy it separately—I have the version included in the Ark of the Covenant box set, which maintains it as a separate release, but it is also available as bonus tracks on re-releases of Wildhoney. I suspect that many listeners will effectively ignore these additional songs; I would direct these people towards When You’re In only. Separate purchase of this release is not recommended.