Over the course of the 1990s, Sweden's Tiamat evolved from a typical death metal outfit into one of the leading lights in "symphonic" black metal. A variation that aimed to keep all of death metal's darkness intact, symphonic black metal portrayed that darkness it in a moodier, atmospheric manner, often making synthesizer arrangements just as important as guitar riffs and utilizing a deliberate, Gothic feel. The one constant throughout Tiamat's history has been the presence of vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Johan Edlund, originally known as Hellslaughter in the band's early days. Tiamat grew out of a splatter-metal band called Treblinka, which was formed in 1988 and released two demos (Crawling in Vomits and Sign of the Pentagram) that helped secure a deal with England's CMFT label. Electing to change their name to Tiamat (an ancient Middle Eastern goddess of chaos and a five-headed dragon in the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game), the group released their debut album, Sumerian Cry, in 1990, with a lineup of Edlund, bassist Jorgen "Juck" Thullberg, and session musicians Stefan "Emetic" Lagergren (guitar) and Andres "Najse" Holmberg. Dissatisfied with the album's distribution, Tiamat jumped to the Century Media label and completed their official lineup with guitarist Thomas Petersson and drummer Niklas Ekstrand.