After having reviewed a whack of Russian bands, of which the majority have been strictly below average, I wasn’t exactly relishing the prospect of sitting through “The Beginning Of The End”, the debut album by TANTAL, yet another band of Russian metallers. Thankfully, this band broke from the mould by actually delivering the goods on most fronts, with “The Beginning...” actually turning out a pretty enjoyable listen.
Based on a rather overzealous press release that described the band as “virtuosic Death Metal with multi-faceted melodies and progressive elements” I kind of had these guys (and one gal) pegged as some sort of INTO ETERNITY clone, but their sound is more reminiscent of newer ARCH ENEMY with a pinch of Prog thrown in (mostly in terms of the various instrumentals/interludes). The albums main strength lies in the band’s use of tasteful restraint (at no point do the melodies approach the overbearing wispy vibe that seems to have become the norm), and the fact that the production is damn near perfect, with a n organic tatmosphere that highlights all the little nuances clearly (especially the lead work). Another interesting aspect is the vocals of female vocalist Sofia Raikova – she has a rather gruff tone to her vocals which are quite similar in sound to those of the late Michelle Meldrum, and they contrast well with the harsh growls that take up most of the record. Riff-wise things are also quite impressive, with a few Thrash-y sounding sections meshing nicely with the multi-tempo riff/melody changes that permeate the album, with songs like “Controlled By Hate” and “In The End Pt.1” standing out, especially the former with its cool MEGADETH-ish opening riffs.
TANTAL definitely have a solid and very professional offering here, and dare I say one of the better Melodic Death Metal albums I’ve come across in a while. The sub-genre has been run into a rut by loads of talentless hacks but these Russians have taken a fine crack at it, incorporating the good aspects of the style while eschewing most of its pitfalls. I recommend this album to those who long for the days when this style was still of the ass-kicking variety, as well as those who prefer their metal peppered with a healthy dose of Progressive flavour.
(Online November 5, 2009)