Tiamat - The Scarred People (Napalm Records)

The Scarred People offers up an unnatural selection of Tiamat's gothic travails from their storied history. But are they left victims of their groundbreaking success?

Cast your mind back to 1994. Tiamat stood as the dark, sybaritic masters of the progressive-death metal revolution, marshalling visceral death metal alongside withered flower-power psychedelica ala King Crimson and/or Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd. Death metal as we’d come to understand stands forever transformed.

Tiamat's diamond through a glass darkly, slithering vocalist Johan Edlund serves as funereal foil to the band's explosive verve on The Scarred People, possibly this decade’s closest approximation to their laudable Wildhoney era.

Rocking out on Radiant Star, gothic bedroom poetry resonates around dreamy acoustic pluckings and dramatic synth strings evoking the spirit of their mesmeric opus Do You Dream Of Me?. Industrial strength riff hits abound Winter Dawn, dragging their opium-addled Middle Eastern schtick out again for great effect. The Sun Also Rises’ soulful, bluesy guitar lines rise up like smoke from a cigarette wedged between tuning pegs.  Edlund somberly beckons to loves lost, presumably while clutching a bottle and huddled over on a dimly lit stage.

Before Another Wilbury Dies unabashedly runs headlong into the goth rock n’ roll void left by The Sisters of Mercy, guitars wailing and bass noodling about. They tread further into dearly departed goth sorority cloisters on the electro-imbued Love Terrorists. (If you want to hear them brazenly rip them off, skip forward to dance-hall zapper Thunder & Lightning.) Bizarrely, the band ventures into sun-kissed Stone Roses territory (Messinian Letter) gothing it up a notch, natch: “You are my only friend”, Edlund ironically rasps, guitars bursting into explosions of coloured light around him. Weird.

The Red of the Morning Sun gloriously unfurls to reveal them at their gloomy best – majestic strings and horns ride alongside vast lashing riffs, forming the centrepiece to their fateful symphony. Easily the greatest cut on the record, Edlund’s scathing vocal performance among his finest.

Tiamat feel content to ape themselves on this release. Their often fragmentary attempts to recapture their glory days feel just beyond their grasp. Are they a death metal band gone goth or a goth rock band with a passing interest in extreme metal? Goth tinctured metal bands like Katatonia or Sentenced (may they rest in peace) could peel back their black veils to reveal their metal hearts and circuits’ gleam. Tiamat aren’t so bold as to wear cobalt on their sleeves thus their stylistic direction falters. Did Tiamat's trademark inventiveness hold them hostage in view of their genre-defining success? Unfortunately therein may lie the rub.