Wildhoney (Century Media Records í94) Rating: A

Tiamat's best album is a certified '90s classic among hardcore metalheads, as the band brilliantly weaves together different strands of light and shade. Led by singer/guitarist/keyboardist Johan Edlund, on Wildhoney the band found a unique mix between intense, heavy death metal and melodic, atmospheric, gothic balladry, with the epic end result being a majestic hybrid between symphonic black metal and progressive ambient music! Actually, much of the second half of the album isn't heavy at all and often has a hypnotic, Floydian-feel, but earlier songs such as "Whatever That Hurts" hit with a pummeling force, though it's also wonderfully moody as well. This song features death metal/screams grunts and almost whispered vocals, and it flows seamlessly into "The Ar," which features a great gothic groove that's difficult not to sing along to (even if you're singing along to a wordless chant on the chorus). Elsewhere, "Gaia" offers lush, epic balladry, with soaring guitar solos and intense yet restrained vocals that are somewhere between the whispering and grunting previously offered, but the grunted/whispered vocals are back on "Visionaire," one of the albums heavier tracks and another strong effort. As mentioned previously, the back end of the album is mostly mellow, as "Do You Dream of Me?" is actually Depeche Mode-y, with Edlund melodically singing this time; the guitar/drum jam section is also quite accomplished, and "Planets" offers an instrumental mood piece before the understated and over-long "A Pocket Size Sun" provides a pretty good but slightly disappointing finale to an otherwise stellar album. Besides the more substantial tracks already outlined, the album contains several mood enhancing segues, a couple of which I probably would've dropped or at least shortened, but on the whole these interludes do add to the overall experience. And yes, listening to Wildhoney is an experience, as this is an album that should be listened to as a whole, because the parts fit together wonderfully well as the band successfully shifts directions from song to song, and within the songs themselves. Simply put, this album greatly appeals to the metalhead in me and even more so to my mellower "chill out" side, and as such itís been a sleeper favorite of mine for many years.

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