Saturday, September 6, 2008

Tiamat - Sumerian Cry (1990)


I first discovered Tiamat, back in high school, when I was trading mix tapes with my Latvian penpal. I was introduced to this band because she included a couple songs from the Clouds album. At the time, I was listening to a lot of melodic stuff from Europe, including Hypocrisy's The Fourth Dimension and Tales From the Thousand Lakes by Amorphis. When I actually sought out Clouds, I was a little disappointed and found it difficult to get into. But then I read about how their older stuff was completely different. That's when I discovered Sumerian Cry.

Sumerian Cry is the first full-length album from Sweden's Tiamat, rising from the ashes of Treblinka. There is a bit of debate regarding the style of music presented on this album, which features tremolo riffs (which were common with Swedish Death Metal bands), blastbeats and a morbid vocal style. The inverted crosses, corpsepaint and spikes should also signal that the band was still striving to create Black Metal, in the same vein as Samael, Grotesque and Imperator. As a matter fact, this is not so far removed from what Mayhem were doing around this same time.

On the other hand, this was recorded in Sunlight Studio and that is very obvious. It has a very similar sound to the early albums from Entombed, Carnage/Dismember and even Soulside Journey by Darkthrone. However, as a point of reference, this album is much more primitive than Darkthrone's debut. Stylistically, there are elements of Black, Death, Thrash and Doom Metal here. While Tiamat does utilize various elements, the aesthetics, lyrics and overall atmosphere seem to be more in tune with early Black Metal.

Sumerian Cry was recorded during late October 1989, making Tiamat one of the first of the well known Swedish bands to record in Sunlight Studio. As previously indicated, the tempo changes quite a bit, throughout the recording, but the blastbeat seems to be fairly consistent. The guitars have the typical, heavy Swedish sound and Hellslaughter's vocals sound possessed! The sinister whispers also add to the darkened atmosphere. The songwriting is pretty primitive, but there are moments that foreshadow the band's more melodic and mature efforts.

The album begins with a short synth/acoustic intro, before the crushing guitars come in and "In the Shrines of the Kingly Dead" is unleashed. This song really sets the tone for the whole album. As a matter of fact, one can notice that this album may have influenced others in the scene, as some of the ideas that were briefly touched upon were later borrowed and expanded upon by other bands, such as Edge of Sanity and even Marduk, on Dark Endless. "The Malicious Paradise" stands out as one of the best songs on here, as well as "Nocturnal Funeral" and "Altar Flame". Two-thirds of the way through this album, one would assume that it is a very solid effort and worthy of some praise...

However, I will warn everyone to avoid the song "Evilized". It had potential to be a decent Black Metal song, but there's some sort of jazz section (yes, I said fucking JAZZ) halfway through. I don't know what the Hell happened there and it was most unexpected. The first time I listened to this, I actually thought the CD player had switched to 'radio' or something. Sadly, this was a harbinger of things to come. Why they had to taint such a good album is beyond me, but it's only a minute or so. Still, I recommend just skipping past this song, entirely.

They salvage the album with the godly "Where the Serpents Ever Dwell/Sumerian Cry pt. 2". This song is extremely slow and doom-laden. The riffs create a very dismal and somber atmosphere. This one song sits alongside "The Malicious Paradise" as the best songs on this album and, possibly, my favorite Tiamat songs.

I strongly recommend this L.P. for fans of late 80s/early 90s Black Metal, such as Mayhem, Samael, Imperator, Grotesque and Necromantia. I would also recommend this for fans of early Swedish Death Metal albums, such as Left Hand Path, Dark Recollections, Into the Grave, Like An Everflowing Stream, Nothing But Death Remains and Where No Life Dwells, though it is best to keep in mind that this album possesses a much darker atmosphere than any of those could hope for.