Tiamat - _Commandments: An Anthology_
(Century Media, 2007)
by: Jeremy Ulrey (0 out of 10)
Tiamat can rightly be said to have three distinct phases to their career: the promising young death metal ensemble that was really kinda old school black metal in today's sense, but no one was splitting hairs quite that closely at the time; the band that fulfilled that promise by flippantly disregarding everything that got them to the top in the first place, instead pioneering a psychotropic fantasy-based goth / prog hybrid featuring cleaner vocals and frequently more keyboards than guitars; and the latter day minstrel show version of Tiamat, helmed by sole survivor Johan Edlund, who has disappeared up his own recalcitrant ass so fast the influx of rushing air created a long standing vacuum in quality goth / prog acts, one which few bands have been all that eager to fill.

_Commandments_ showcases all three periods of Tiamat's career in the most half-assed, obligatory, contractual obligation afterthought manner that could possibly be expected. How's this for well thought out? You have two songs from each of the band's eight albums, except for middling debut _Sumerian Cry_, which rightfully only warrants a token nod, and that leaves one other record to pick up an extra track to make an even sixteen. OK, so _Wildhoney_ or _A Deeper Kind of Slumber_ would definitely warrant at least three songs here, right? Apparently not. The powers that be at Century Media -- typically a quality for the dollar, non-cash-grab kinda label, and I only kiss ass retrospectively to balance out a current upbraiding -- decided to cull the bonus track from the band's most recent studio opus, the nearly universally shat upon _Prey_. Why? Where's the motive? I mean, it's not unusual for a label that has a recent release they're promoting to stack a brand new compilation heavily with material from that record, both to familiarize fans with the songs, but also, more importantly, to exalt their credibility by their disproportionate inclusion next to more carefully culled, recognized classics. In this case _Prey_ was released three years ago... it's not a new record, no one is any more likely to buy it now than they would be to go back and stock up on those mid-period catalog milestones, so why the inexplicable showcase? Far from disproving the contrary notion most fans hold that Tiamat stopped being worth listening to around the turn of the millennium, Century Media have pretty much proven the opposition's case.

The one thing the label has done right is to present the songs in chronological order, as the band's evolution over the years could have made for some jarring juxtapositions; nonetheless, the effort is wasted, as the sphere of growth proves too voluminous for one disc to circumnavigate. If one is to get a feel for the artistic progression of Tiamat's albums, a little more generous cherry picking is in order; I can't imagine less than two discs doing the trick. Any more than that and we'd need a box set just to highlight the "merits" of the post-_Skeletron_ records, a thought which frankly makes my bowels quake in terror.

Furthermore, there is a concerted effort here to keep everything on _Commandments_ at the sub-five minute mark, which precludes some of their most forward thinking material, most notably "A Pocket Size [sic] Sun" and "Mount Marilyn". I mean, do we all agree _Wildhoney_ and _...Slumber_ are far and away the apex of Edlund's precipitous career? Maybe, maybe not; some might throw _Skeletron_ or even _Clouds_ in there, but that whole middle period of the catalog, with _Wildhoney_ acting as the peak of any reasonably composed grade-curve flowchart, is where the real quibbling over this anthology's track listing is gonna lay. But you know what? I'm going to leave that task to all of you out there, as the selection is so resolutely botched in inspiration that offering up examples is really just belaboring the point.

And oh, by the way, there are no unreleased tracks, unless you count an edited version of _Prey_'s "Divided" as "unreleased". Century Media does. Essentially this is the sound of a label shooting themselves in the foot, with _Commandments_ serving no purpose except to give potential customers every excuse in the world to forsake a band's commercial products in favor of their own mix-and-match file trading playlists. All of the material Tiamat released, with the exception of _Sumerian Cry_ (which is represented anyway) was put out through Century Media, so there were no obstacles to the label putting together an integral, comprehensive overview of a legendary career; they just couldn't be bothered. Hell, even the cover art is the worst ever for a Tiamat release, and that includes the much maligned _Judas Christ_. I'm going to more or less let this one slide for old time's sake, but many more slapdash efforts like this and CM are going to start bearing an uncomfortable, unwelcome resemblance to the marketing tactics that made me turn my back on Earache and Roadrunner years ago. Fair warning.

Contact: http://www.churchoftiamat.com

(article published 23/6/2007)


CHATS
10/20/2003 J Smit Tiamat: Let Us Prey
8/12/1999 D Rocher Tiamat: Within the Sun's Own Shadow
ALBUMS
9/21/2003 J Smit 8 Tiamat - Prey
12/9/1999 A Bromley 8.5 Tiamat - Skeleton Skeletron
6/7/1997 P Azevedo 5 Tiamat - A Deeper Kind of Slumber
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