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Shifts and changes - 90%

kluseba, October 10th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2007, CD, Century Media Records

Just like many other Scandinavian bands that rose to fame in the nineties and are still active today, Tiamat has gone through important stylistic changes in its impressive career. The band around singer and guitarist Johan Edlund who also plays keyboards and theremin on some occasions, has evolved from a sinister doom metal band with dominant death metal influences into a gothic rock act flirting with extremes like pop music but also its own extreme metal roots. Releasing a compilation of the band’s first decade and a half of activities in chronological order makes sense in such a context as it helps us follow and understand the development of the Swedish quartet.

The release starts with the raw ‘’Where the Serpents Ever Dwell’’ that comes around with miserable and creeping doom metal riffs meeting raw and terrifying vocals. The track is taken from the band’s ambitious conceptual debut record Sumerian Cry when Johan Edlund still called himself Hellslaughter.

As soon as the group’s third album gets covered by this compilation, the already imaginative music gets a more melodic and mysterious touch such as in the wonderful ‘’A Caress of Stars’’ taken from the underrated Clouds record that is often overlooked between the doom metal milestone The Astral Sleep and the popular gothic metal record Wildhoney that helped shaping this new genre of music.

The latter release included at times cinematic, epic and progressive elements such as in the imaginative ‘’Gaia’’ that requests multiple spins to unfold.

Later in its career, Tiamat’s sound became simpler and mellower. The surprisingly uplifting ‘’Vote for Love’’ from the Judas Christ record is a track that jumped on the bandwagon of the success of numerous commercially successful gothic rock acts like HIM.

The bittersweet melancholically melodic ‘’Cain’’ from the band’s Prey record became a career highlight that defines Tiamat just as much as the Wildhoney era and its hits.

Commandments is a release filled with sixteen imaginative, diversified and atmospheric songs shifting from gloomy doom metal with death metal grunts over progressive gothic metal with female backing vocals to short and sweet gothic rock songs with a strong commercial appeal. Some new material would have been great for fans of old date but the running time of eighty minutes is very generous and offers value for money nonetheless. Commandments is an excellent way to understand everything Tiamat is about and honours the still underrated Swedish gothic metal pioneers appropriately.