In 2010, twenty-five years after their formation, TAROT show absolutely no signs of tiring or running out of ideas (they already did that once and they don't seem to fancy it again) and further prove that really, all the best bands are the real oldies.
With two vocalists, sampled orchestras and an eclectic mix of TAROT's various incarnations throughout the years, in addition to reaching for the Hard Rock of the '80s and to a lesser extent the synthy epic Metal of today, 'twould seem the brothers Hietala and their cohorts try to do a little too much. Whether you are trying to do too much is entirely dependent on how much you can juggle at the same time, and the grizzly-haired folks in my favourite Finnish band are no novices. Put simply, “Gravity Of Light” sees the band taking on a huge, ambitious task and pulling it off.
Take the vigorous mix of smashing Melodic Metal riffs, huge Doom break and epic chorus of “Satan Is Dead”. Where a lengthy opener like “Crows Fly Black” benefited from its tight writing and circular theme, this is very close to showing off how much the band can pack into four exhilarating minutes, with fists in the air and jaws opened in a mighty roar! The song writing present here and throughout the album is far ahead of anything recorded before “Crows Fly Black” in terms of creativity, and while TAROT have made slightly better music, they have never made anything quite so detailed and layered - immediacy intact, mind.
And TAROT's rich legacy is also intact. “Rise!” and “Sleep In The Dark” are the obligatory cookers, and despite a suspiciously NIGHTWISH-esque breakdown the latter is a truly hungry bit of adrenalin-fuelled Heavy Metal. “Hell Knows” might be the best of all the slow, riff-based Doom bangers they have been recording since “To Live Forever” and “Stigmata”, edging out ”Warhead” and ”Rider Of The Last Day” for the prize. The vocals are no less than chilling, sonorous and passionate performances from both singers, and the main driving riff would have Tony Iommi reaching for his wallet. Best riff this year so far, actually. Almost as excellent is the chugging, groovy beast that is ”Magic And Technology”, which actually feels more like a slower RAINBOW song, something in the vein of ”Stargazer” with a less mystical, more focussed feel.
Marco is well aware what his brother can do, and is content as always to play simple supporting bass rhythms that fill out the riffs. Zachary's Blackmore influence manifests in the bubbling classical guitar solos of ”Pilot Of All Dreams' and ”Sleep In The Dark” and of course for Marco and Tommi the influence of the DEEP PURPLE Mark III lineup where Hughes and Coverdale shared vocal duties between them. More so than on the previous album Marco and Tommi are wont to share verses, making for a far more tense and exciting vocal aesthetic on tracks like ”Satan Is Dead”, ”Rise!” and in particular ”Sleep In The Dark” where Hietala breaks off halfway through a line only for Salmela to enthusiastically belt out the end, and vice versa. Marco is on absolutely top form on this last track.
There will be plenty of chit-chat around the water coolers that are NIGHTWISH fan forums that Salmela is on this too much (in addition to his having an almost equal share of the microphone as Hietala, unlike the previous LP, two of the songs, “Pilot Of All Dreams” and ”Calling Down The Rain” are performed almost entirely by him, and damn fucking mighty fine they are too). Well, don't listen to those newbies. Let's laugh at how ridiculous they are and give them nipple pinches. Salmela is an awesome singer, with a fine thin voice that speaks of '70s and '80s Heavy Metal rather than Power Metal, possessing a great range and a ton of character. On the Blackmore-esque rock epic ”I Walk Forever” he gets very close to outshining Hietala, reminding strongly of Glenn Hughes or perhaps a less flamboyant Graham Bonnet. His energetic wails of the pre-chorus on ”Pilot Of All Dreams” could knock over any Michael Kiske or Tobias Sammet.
There are a few tiny weak points. Apart from the excellent vocals, ”Caught In The Deadlights” smells a bit off, and although it’s a ”Ghosts Of Me”-referencing epic of studio-bursting high notes, chunky distorted guitars and orchestral mirages, ”Gone” doesn't always merit listening through. Although TAROT have recorded better albums, “Gravity Of Light” features a few of their best songs ever and a good number of essential tracks. While ”Suffer Our Pleasures” and to a lesser extent ”Crows Fly Black” overshadow the album in terms of song writing, since Salmela came in full-time the band's actual sound has been better than ever, with the dual vocals reflected by an even more schizophrenic instrumental dynamic. A crackin' way to start off 2010, and it is absolutely heart-warming how loyal TAROT have stayed to their old, old fan base throughout everything, through complete anonymity, and then infrequent album releases due to NIGHTWISH tours, through it all, they've just been good old TAROT. I bloody love this band!
(Online August 4, 2011)