Yes I know it’s not Wildhoney.
And, as usual with From The Vaults, dragging it out is not to say it’s a band’s best album – even though it is.
It’s just that Tiamat’s 1997 masterpiece is such a special album that it deserves pages and pages of reminiscence. One of which I hope to provide here.
Some albums just contain within them a vibe that is all their own.
And an uncanny ability to create that vibe by themselves alone; without the need for supportive surroundings. They’re that potent.
‘Slumber’ is an album of beautiful, modern, melancholic delirium that moved Tiamat away from the pastoral metal of the Wildhoney era and into something definitively citybound and contemporary.
The whole point of its sound and mood is that it is numbed. By drugs, booze, ennui, anhedonia, take your pick: there’s a track for each.
After the initial quasi-goth soft rocker of ‘Cold Seed’, ‘Teonanacatl’ (itself named after magic mushrooms) begins the voyage into the soft and welcoming intoxication.
Even at this junction it’s affectingly simple and modern, with it’s ‘You could stay at my place if you want / I’ll sleep on the floor’ lyric. That’s one that always got me, at any rate.
Of the trillions of times it’s accompanied me off to sleep over the years, never once, I think, have I played it in the daytime. It’s just such quintessential night music. Music for a blue light and slatted window blinds, deep in the small hours, invariably drunk.
Trip hop at this point seems a natural digression, and ‘The Desolate One’ is this album’s dalliance with it, before a deep plunge into the ballad of ‘Atlantis As A Lover’. There’s something quite deliberately plastic-y or hammed about its french horn style lamenting notes that reminds almost of Beyond Dawn at their more ironic.
It feels like you’re now inescapably in the album’s trance by the lapping waves of ‘Alteration X 10’, and it could be argued that the tribal ‘Four Leary Biscuits’ is the album’s only real inessential filler – always suggested by any sitar – but all is forgive by the chilled beauty of ‘Only In My Tears It Lasts’.
Could a song be more gorgeous? There’s something of The Cure about it – and indeed the whole album – in a sort of ‘If Only Tonight We Could Sleep’ kind of vibe caught and bottled.
Except, of course, musically nothing like it.
When we need corrosion again, it is served, in ‘The Whores Of Babylon’. A crunching, industrial stomp where anger intrudes upon the reverie.
As if to seal a point I’ve often made, ‘Phantasma De Luxe’ is the track that harks to this album’s sister-piece, The Gathering’s ‘How To Measure A Planet’ (or was it ‘Nighttime Birds’? Probably) with those soaring guitar lines and keyboard swathes.
I can’t really put into words how dear this album is to me. If you’ve never heard it, have a few tonight and melt into it. Like ‘Perdition City’, it has lost nothing – quite the opposite’ – in the twenty years (!) since its release.
It isn’t an album that has dated by either its production or its style. It remains simply perfect.
Tiamat’s offerings since ‘Slumber’ have been good, and even great.
But none matched this peerless, strange, dreamwork – an album for the ages.
– Earl Grey ::: 10/03/18