Genre: Psych Rock/Heavy metal
Label: Heavy Chains Records
After a series of demos and EP releases scattered out over the last several years, the Australian heavy metal band Tarot have released their first full-length album this year. Their sound is a polished and enchanting, and is a compelling musical statement borrowing equally from heavy metal giants like Iron Maiden as well as from classic rock greats like Uriah Heep. The end result is an album that is at once melodic, punchy, engaging, and captivating. More critical heavy metal listeners might balk at the clean production, but as clean as it is, it’s far from sterile, and the deceptively simple approach to their compositions does more than make up for that.
The album doesn’t feel like a lot of heavy metal does. You won’t hear anything raw or impressively fast on this release. The lead player rarely ventures into typical metal soloing and the stereotypical heroics of metal guitarists. The rhythm guitarist isn’t pulling out any mind-bending riffs, either. All the effort of the individual band members is entirely put into their chemistry as a whole. And it works. The rhythm section slowly plods along, providing the perfect matrix for the haunting vocal harmonies and ethereal synths that ride along on the top of the mix. Probably the thing that they do best is simply variety. By that I don’t mean that each song sounds completely different, but rather that in each song, there are no comfortable spots where they hang out needlessly. As soon as a musical idea is complete, they throw a curve ball to keep things interesting. Sometimes it’s a sudden change in time or tempo, the addition of a different instrument, or simply an unexpected interlude. Either way, there are no boring moments on this album.
The highlight of the album comes with the penultimate track, “Mountain Throne” which of all the pieces is the heaviest with an opening riff that plays like a bombastic tribute to Grieg and Strauss whilst still incorporating their haunting vocal style. I chose that particular track as the highlight primarily because of all the tracks it certainly stands out the most, but the rest of the tracks really aren’t any less impressive. I think you have to approach this album as a natural continuation of psychedelic rock but with the added benefit of the incorporation of metal riffs. If you go into this expecting raw and slicing riffs, howling vocals, and scorching leads, you will walk away nonplussed. If you approach this as a highly developed psych rock album, you’ll find a lot to chew on.