1994 was an amazing year for all forms of metal music. It was also a transitional year for one Johan Edlund, most famous as the guitarist/vocalist/founder of a little Swedish metal group called Tiamat. 1992’s Clouds was a breakthrough album for Edlund and his crew of death metal merry-men, but even with the album’s success, Edlund was not satisfied with the sound or results of that album. So, in an interesting turn of events, he fired the entire band (save for bassist Johnny Hagel), hired session musicians, brought his love of Pink Floyd to the forefront, and created one of the most engaging, amorphous, and creative albums ever released with the Century Media label: the still bewitching and beautifully crafted Wildhoney.
The sound of birds chirping and a guitar strumming a beautiful, almost music-box melody would set things in motion in the title track before bleeding into the first proper song, “Whatever That Hurts.” A simple-yet-effective riff was made all the more powerful by then-session drummer (now permanent member) Lars Sköld’s thundering drums before submerging in a sea of pretty thick keyboards and Edlund’s softly spoken LSD-soaked ramblings before the thunder starts again. Tiamat were innovators at the time, as no one could bring such atmosphere into death metal and make it as convincing as they did here. It was a feat that was difficult to replicate, even by Tiamat themselves.
Speaking of atmosphere, this album is saturated in it. Waldemar Sorychta’s keyboards and production played a huge role in Wildhoney‘s success, between the glistening harpsichord-like melodies in “The Ar”, the main melody in “Gaia“, or giving the right feel to the super-trippy “Do You Dream of Me?”, his tasteful playing gave Wildhoney the perfect airy feel. Session guitarist Magnus Sahlgren’s few leads were also expertly crafted and performed (his lead on “Whatever That Hurts” is still one of my favorites to this day), but the real reason for this album’s success was the absolute flow of the album. Simply put, Wildhoney was absolutely seamless from beginning to end. It was a rare album that functioned just as well as a few songs played here-and-there, but also as a collective, beautiful whole.
Tiamat would follow this up with 1997’s front-heavy-yet-inconsistent A Deeper Kind of Slumber with Edlund as its sole creative force before swimming in the lakes of boringly crafted goth rock. However, Wildhoney would place Tiamat as one of the creators of dark metal (shared with the likes of other adventurous-at-the-time acts such as Moonspell, The Gathering, and Samael, all of whom were labelmates of theirs). To this day, Wildhoney gets played heavily in my household twenty years later. If you want to truly experience an amazing, beautiful album while your one-eyed’s eye requires twinkling and gazing, you can’t go wrong with this album.
Editor’s Note: Steel Druhm concurs wholeheartedly with the sentiments expressed above. Wildhoney is one of those special, magical albums that becomes an integral part of your life’s soundtrack. While I never quite understood the pull this album has, it’s real and it’s magnetic.