"Amanethes" starts out at full speed, with Johan Edlund's vocals growling and deep on a triad of songs with recurring massive blasts of guitar mayhem. I honestly thought this aspect of Tiamat dead and buried, with the phoenix rising majestically from the ashes on "Wildhoney" and taking flight on the brilliant "A Deeper Kind of Slumber". After that largely solitary work Edlund once again craved the joys of playing music in a proper rock band, and the result was less of a revelation, but nonetheless gave us several albums of smashing classic goth rock unsurpassed by any band working in that genre at the time.
Do not look for that kind of material here. The fast songs on "Amanethes" are staple gothic metal. We even get Edlund sounding like Peter Steele – though lacking in the kind of timber that comes from having lungs the size of barrels – and Nick Holmes, which works a lot better. Not bad, but pretty boring stuff coming from a band with such huge potential. It sits badly with the theme, if the album title referring to a greek song of mourning, can be seen as such. Luckily Edlund can be counted on having a few torch songs up his sleeve.
"Meliae" is almost startling in its mellow country psychedelia, it is not just a different band but a different world altogether. I am growing to like this song a lot, though it walks a fine line between inspiring weirdness and bland mainstream ballads. Together with "Amanitis" (yes, influences from Edlund's current home country of Greece pop up a lot), a nicely wistful instrumental piece, it forms the other opposite of the album.
Some of the best tracks, like "Misantropolis", manage to balance these two extremes, creating greater depth and emotional resonance. "Summertime Is Gone" is another, owing a lot to Paradise Lost but evolving into something very much Tiamat, before morphing into "Katarraktis Apo Aima". This apocalyptic stream of consciousness is vibrating with tension, and harnesses aggression much better than cliche-laden proto-metal tracks like "Via Dolorosa".
"Amanethes" is the very definition of a mixed bag, and while everyone should be able to find something they like on it, it lacks focus. On "The Temple of the Crescent Moon" – the opening track with grunting and posturing I could do without – Tiamat promise us "five more years of lightning, thunder and rain". Would it be possible to cut down on the thunder a bit so we can hear the rain again?