Tarot // Gravity of Light
Rating: 3.0/5.0 —Good moments but too inconsistent
Label: Nuclear Blast (EU | US)
Websites: wingsofdarkness.net | myspace.com/tarot
Release Dates: EU: 23.04.2010 | US: 06.18.2010
Talk about a long-suffering, unheralded and unsung band! Tarot has been slogging through the metal trenches in relative obscurity outside of their native Finland since 1986. For many non-Finnish folk (myself included), Tarot was an unknown quantity until lead singer and founder Marco Hietala joined up with Nightwish in 2002 for their Century’s Child outing, thereby drawing much needed attention to his primary recording outfit. It has been nearly four years since 2006’s Crows Fly Black, but finally the metal underdogs of Tarot are back in action with their eighth album, Gravity of Light.
Tarot is easy to like and even easier to root for. They are not a “thinking man’s” metal band nor a “post rock/blackened jazz fusion blah blah blah” band. No, Tarot slings the metal hash, kicks your ass and lets Satan sort out the mess thereafter. Tarot is not a crushingly heavy band and generally walks a line between power and traditional metal while tossing in more than a little melody (i.e. lots of keyboards). In fact, one of my issues with Tarot has always been wishing they were slightly heavier. When they want to tear it up, they do it well, but all too frequently for my taste, they dial back and move into more mellow and sedate musical territories. Sadly, that pattern continues here and Tarot teases with some solid heavy metal before drifting back to an almost hard rock style at times.
Gravity of Light comes barreling out of the gates with an energetic Accept/Judas Priest/Euro metal attack while utilizing a killer dual vocal attack by Marco and Tommi Salmela. Marco possesses a seriously unique set of pipes (like the evil spawn of Blackie Lawless and Udo Dirkschneider) and his voice may be a love or hate proposition, but he surely can let it rip when the song calls for it. It helps that the production places Marco’s patented squeal front and center while leaving enough emphasis on the guitar so it’s still prominent rather than muted in the background (which kills a metal record faster than having the name St. Anger on the cover).
The first 4 songs on Gravity of Light all show Tarot in top form with catchy, rocking, classic metal moments that get your head shaking and fist pumping (especially “Satan is Dead” and “Pilot of All Dreams”). Sadly, the level of these songs isn’t maintained throughout and several just seem to drag on without much energy (ex. “Magic and Technology”). Further unhinging the album, some tracks, although energetic enough, are simply lackluster. This brings me to my second and far more serious issue with Tarot. While they definitely have what it takes musically, at times on past albums and here again on Gravity of Light, the songwriting has been far too inconsistent. For every quality metal stomper (“I Walk Forever,” “Sleep in the Dark”) we get one or two tedious, lethargic tracks.
It’s a very frustrating experience to wish a band was better than they really are, but you simply can’t overlook the fact that some of Tarot’s output is just plain and generic. This is even more troubling because I think Marco is one of the more interesting singers in metal and I really want to hear him on better material than this.
Gravity of Light is a weaker album than Crows Fly Black and although there are a few worthwhile songs on display, this is neither exceptional nor essential. In a market as crowded as heavy metal has become, I can’t see this gaining much attention outside of Finland and in some ways that is a shame. I firmly believe Marco and company have it within themselves to write a monster metal album, but this is not it.