It's been a long, slow slide for TIAMAT, from primitive death metal to highbrow avant-garde psychedelia to drippy Eurotrash pop swagger. After five years of silence, the band that asked us to "vote for love" and seemed doomed to end its life narcissistically sniffing SISTERS OF MERCY's long-discarded jock has rediscovered its muse and delivered a solid, clammy slab of depressive metal with all the absinthe melodrama longtime fans could want.Old-school fans will be thrilled by the metallic flourishes of "Equinox of the Gods" (blast beats and everything!), and those looking for a catchy single will gravitate toward "The Temple of the Crescent Moon", but it's on track three, "Until the Hellhounds Sleep Again", that "Amanethes" really hits its stride. This is an album of simple, slow, ponderous tomes, weighty and full of sorrowful intonation from mainman Johan Edlund. Consider it a simplified and less ethereal version of the TIAMAT of the "Wildhoney" era, delivering obsidian walls of guitar and stately, martial tempos, the sound of bleak seaside funerals in the rain in a black and white foreign film. "Lucienne", in particular, is a pathos-drenched slog through wistful emotions and trudging riffs, beauty in gloom and torpor, while "Summertime Is Gone" evokes deep emotions with the simplest chords and a spaced-out, hallucinogenic vocal that gives way to a shouted, defiant chorus. Really, the only problem with "Amanethes" is its length. "Meliae" has all the hallmarks of a great album-ending song, a wide-open and plaintive anthem touching on influences from Roger Waters to Nick Drake, and it's so well-done (arguably one of the band's two or three all-time best tracks) that when another song starts up, it feels wrong somehow. TIAMAT can be somewhat forgiven for being indulgent after such a long layoff, but the record is just a touch too long, with a sag in the last couple tracks that unfortunately takes away from the excellent material before them. A number of bands, from KATATONIA to OPETH to DRACONIAN, owe a debt to TIAMAT, and to Edlund for his exploration of this morose territory in the previous decade. While they certainly weren't the first or only band to mix these goth and doom elements into their sound (CEMETARY and DIABOLIQUE deserve mention, just to name two), they broadened the appeal of such maudlin fare, and made some of the most enduring underground metal of the 1990's in the process. Though their legacy may have been diluted somewhat by their later stylistic wanderings, "Amanethes" should restore their glum glory and introduce a new generation to their depressive travelogues. Slot this one third, maybe, below "Wildhoney" and "A Deeper Kind of Slumber", a damn fine record from a source where few expected more greatness.
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