TIAMAT - The Astral Sleep (CENTURY MEDIA - LP 1991)
There're quite a lot of memories I have about this album. For sure "The Astral Sleep" was one of the first Swedish death metal albums that I listened to, at probably the age of 12... and man, that was almost 20 years ago. I totally loved the album, because just like "Testimony of the Ancients", for instance, it offered a slightly different, more atmospheric sound. And as much as I liked such LPs as "Cross the Styx" or "Left Hand Path", I also admired those brave and unconventional, inventive albums. And what's even more fantastic is that 20 years later all that still sounds fuckin great.And the album is brave, believe me. In the world of relentless brutality, shredding riffs and vomiting vocals, it offers atmospheric calm passages, beautiful acoustics, ever present keyboards and whispering kind of vocals / shrieks. Nowadays such attributes may be normal, as heavy metal music in general has developed a lot in the past 20 years and went through many, sometimes very weird, paths of influence, but in 1991, when Tiamat recorded "The Astral Sleep" I think it must have been very shocking to the fans and challenging to the listeners. Some bands were already breaking the rules, like Paradise Lost, even Bathory with such albums like "Twilight of the Gods", but death metal was focused on breaking the limits of brutality and riff shredding. Tiamat has an enormous gothic influence on "The Astral Sleep" and I must say it works absolutely great. Normally I would puke to death when hearing this damned word "gothic", but the truth is Tiamat had an enormous influence from that genre, but was able to translate it into death metal language perfectly. The ideas they had on "The Astral Sleep" were breaking many rules. There are of course songs, which are very classic death metal tracks and as such are a continuation of what we know from the "Sumerian Cry" debut full length and songs like "In the Sign of the Pentagram". Among these songs are "Lady Temptress" and "Sumerian Cry Part III" - especially the second track is great, one of the most aggressive ones, but with an excellent middle fragment. In other songs the hell breaks loose. The use of acoustic guitars is very frequent. Starting with epic "Mountain of Doom" and slow, melodic melancholy of "Dead Boy's Choir" we're under the strong spell of darkened death metal. One of the best songs is definitely "On Golden Wings" - a brilliant cooperation of angry, sometimes doomy riffs and atmosphere created by the acoustics and keyboards. "The Ancient Entity" is another epic tune on the album and probably the most known song from it. Everybody knows it, I guess, as Tiamat played it live many times and personally I must say I love this song. It has everything - aggressive riffs, some fast parts and melodic passages, like that catchy breaking melody that appears twice in it. Fantastic, really.If someone thought it's not possible to diversify the album even more, then "The Southernmost Voyage" appears - a beautiful, dark acoustic song, with great vocals from Johan Edlund. This is one of the best fragments of the album, even if we can't say it's metal song, but so damn good, you know... "I am the King (...of Dreams)" is probably my least favourable song, but on the album with such high standards, it's still very strong and in the end many bands would kill for such riffing.Johan Edlund is great on "The Astral Sleep". His lyrics and vocals are some of the best in the history of Swedish death metal! Especially the vocals are excellent as they're very original, something between the whispers and scream and add an extra dark feeling to the atmosphere of the album. The lyrics are just excellent... Very dark, satanic... "...Knights of Satan, dead boys choir. Ten more around a fire invoking dragons and demons this event. They are not the ones that God has sent..."The production is probably the only thing that I don't really like about "The Astral Sleep", to be honest. Tiamat went to Woodhouse Studios, instead of Sunlight, and I don't know if that was wise decision. I mean I like the production of Unleashed albums from that period, but on "The Astral Sleep" it just doesn't click. The guitars sounds awful! They were not supposed to sound brutal, I guess, but they have kind of mechanical sound, or whatever you can call it, and it is weird. What rescues the album from disaster are keyboards and acoustics, which fill up that void of shitty guitar sound, and all together make it listenable.Who cares anyway... Of course I wish "The Astral Sleep" had different production, but even as it is, it's damn brilliant and in my opinion this is one of top five of Swedish death metal records. Cult I call it.
Best songs: "Mountain of Doom", "The Ancient Entity", "On Golden Wings"
Final rate: 95 / 100
Final rate: 95 / 100