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Tiamat mastermind Johan Edlund, on eighth album Prey, continues his obsession with mediocre, synth-driven goth rock, marking a logical progression from the atrocious 2002 effort Judas Christ. In other words, Prey isn't an embarrassment like its predecessor, but it's still a dull, plodding affair, and a distant cry from Tiamat's chilling crossover masterpiece, Wildhoney (which is a Pink Floydian prog-psych-death benchmark in a catalog filled with wide-ranging experimentation). Dominated by big, droning chords, medium to crawling tempos, and Edlund's clean, sub-Andrew Eldritch/Peter Steele croon, Prey drifts in a sea of contrived depression, and any ill-advised stabs at catchy songwriting -- "Wings of Heaven," "Carry Your Cross and I'll Carry Mine" -- sound clunky and forced. In fact, very little energy is exuded here -- uninspired, workmanlike guitars are played like a chore, often secondary to blasé, minor-key keyboard tinkles and whooshes, with Edlund tossing in a few uninspired riffs, as if trying to lure Tiamat worshipers of old back into his increasingly unattractive, eyeliner-clad nest. The tedious Prey is not the return to form that longtime Tiamat fans could have hoped for, Edlund instead searching for an entirely different black-clad audience and stumbling once again, both conceptually and artistically. Disappointing.

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