I’ve previously written about how the mid-to-late-’90s were a confusing time for metal and metal fans. I guess you could even say that it was akin to metal puberty: awkward growth, weird new urges and strange hairs growing from places previously baby smooth. It’s not to say that there never were bands who shifted sounds or aimed for over the fences before. You can see that just with Celtic Frost alone. But the reactions have always been the same: disbelief, anger, apathy or acceptance. Many records featured in “Justify Your Shitty Taste” elicit a similar response.
The general purpose, at least in what I’m droning on about, is that a lot of these records were considered dogshit when they came out but the comments section sweats and shakes any time I post, rose colored glasses glued to their heads. For today’s reasonable discussion I’ve chosen Tiamat‘s A Deeper Kind of Slumber, a record that confused a lot of people when it came out — myself included.
Century Media had a period there were they were just pumping out releases I hated from bands I loved. Moonspell, Morgoth, the Gathering, etc. Some of them I eventually grew to appreciate, others still taste like a burnt bull’s cock when I think back on them. The one that oddly found a sweet spot when it came out and still remains a favorite was A Deeper Kind of Slumber. Tiamat is a band that never really repeated themselves. From the black metal classic Sumerian Cry up to the first truly psychedelic doom/death metal record I can think of (comments section, prove me wrong) Wildhoney, it seemed that Tiamat both cultivated and hemorrhaged fans with every subsequent release. They were always adventurous, something that isn’t exactly welcomed in extreme metal. And unlike other bands who at the time abandoned their death metal roots like Anathema or (temporarily) My Dying Bride, Tiamat’s shift into complete psychedelic rock mixed with the more upbeat parts of goth rock/post punk wasn’t uncomfortable to me.
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Sure, the video for the track opener “Cold Seed” jettisoned all metal imagery for something like a more technicolor “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and frontman Johan Edlund’s aesthetic change into a bald shaman was more than enough to elicit some giggles in the more immature corners of the 1997 version of Internet (shocking), but the song is powerful and driving, even without being overly (if at all) metal. The rest of the album sort of flows into one part after “Teonanacatl” creates either a gentlemanly or creepy (depending on your sensitivity level, I guess) invitation to sleep at his apartment. It’s a very atmospheric record, playing to the psychedelic strengths of Wildhoney, but retaining none of the aggression. It marks the end of Tiamat as a metal band for at least a decade.
When the record was released in 1997 I was at a weird crossroads in my life. I had graduated high school and was preparing to enter college (spoiler alert: that didn’t work out). I was at the end of my first real relationship. I had been nicely asked to leave the band I was in. I was basically at the door of adulthood and had no real idea what the fuck I was going to do (still don’t, really). I wasn’t at a point where I was allowing myself to venture out of metal and punk into new territory. It was the ’90s after all, that whole “true metal” thing was especially stringent then. When I picked up A Deeper Kind of Slumber I hadn’t read any reviews or talked to anyone who had heard it, so when I put it on it was really kind of a shock. But there was something about it that instantly connected with me, maybe because in a sense it’s also a transitional period for them. It became one of those records that help define a season in your mind, this one being the back end of summer turning into fall. The fact that it was moody while I was going through some shit I suppose is the most cliché thing I could write about, but it’s my defense of the moment they abandoned their roots entirely, which was controversial during an age where we didn’t have Opeth’s doing different genre shifts per album and being lauded for bravery. I guess it was just different then.
Honestly this record and Sumerian Cry—both on completely opposite sides of the spectrum—stand as my two favorite Tiamat records and some of my favorite LPs from the ’90s. I couldn’t really stay on board for subsequent records because by then shit like Rammstein was in vogue and just had too much of a stamp on these records. I didn’t really even try to follow up until two years ago when I heard Amanethes, which featured moments you could even call black metal. Those, however, did not reappear on 2012’s The Scarred People but probably wouldn’t have fit anyway. While both of these records were decent, they didn’t hold up to the “classic” period. But I’m sure they have their defenders, as does every record we either like or dislike.