SummaryTales of the occult
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There are a few albums out there that marked the harsh beginning of several bands that seem to be underrated, or perhaps underappreciated nowadays. Think of Therion’s Of Darkness…, Sentenced’s Shadows of the Past and of course, Tiamat’s Sumerian Cry. These bands would continue to evolve for better or worse and in Tiamat’s case, we’re talking about the first band that would record their debut in the Sunlight Studio.
Let’s make one thing clear right away: Tiamat’s Sumerian Cry certainly isn’t for everyone and it’s easy to see why. While the mass of the guitar tone does resemble Swedish death metal and the band sounds at their most aggressive here, there are times when this feels closer to that of an 80’s Brazilian extreme metal record than anything else. Of course, plenty of these songs were written under the Treblinka name, which were more of a black/thrash metal band to begin with, but fans of Tiamat’s later works would probably have a hard time getting into this record. The guitar work sounds rather unrefined (although you’ll mostly hear captivating thrash metal picking and frantic tremolo attacks), add some noisy guitar solos, blasting drums and unique harsh vocals to it – that’s how you end up with Sumerian Cry.
Johan Edlund has always been a distinctive vocalist, but it’s clear that his vocals would never be this brutal again. Like an undead creature that could only appear in tales of the occult, he groans and howls through the album with conviction. The guitars sound extremely primal and simplistic here, but that’d only be problematic if they wouldn’t be responsible for memorable songs to begin with. “Necrophagious Shadows” starts with some slick thrashing that foreshadows The Astral Sleep, but quickly turns into a primal offering where slower riffs steady march underneath Johan Edlund’s harsh throat. “Evilized” even brings to mind early (meaning: circa ’85-’86) Sepultura with those spiking tremolo riffs and dominating blastbeats and who could forget that that hilarious xylophone break? It’s one of the most comical things in metal that I can think of and it makes me wonder whether Tiamat weren’t taking the piss out of the death metal scene at time.
Best of all, Sumerian Cry sounds very consistent, even if it musically doesn’t stand out quite as much as the following two records. Only “Where the Serpents Ever Dwell” doesn’t do it for me; it’s a trudging doom/death metal number that owes more to its occult atmosphere and foreign-sounding ending than any note-worthy riffs. Johan Edlund’s howls remain fantastic here, but the longest song on the album results more in a drag than an epic album closer. Then again, “Apotheosis of Morbidity” is the second longest track and works just fine; the foreign leads remain present here, but in terms of riffing owes as much to Hellhammer as it does to Mercyful Fate… quite wicked stuff, if I may so.
Sumerian Cry won’t score any points for sophisticated musicianship or cleverly composed songs, but Tiamat’s passion couldn’t be denied at this point. It may not be quite as unique as The Astral Sleep or Clouds (although I prefer this one just a bit because of the much better vocals), but one thing is certain; never again would Tiamat take death metal this seriously again.
Release date: June 7th, 1990
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