Marco and the boys dubbed their fifth record “For The Glory Of Nothing” to reflect the feeling that their hard efforts weren't really going anywhere at the time. A few years before Marco was called up by Tuomas Holopainen, no-one knew who TAROT was. As it happened, the material recorded after “For The Glory...” would follow a template that this album set.
Marco's performance here must be what landed him a job with NIGHTWISH just before some Kerrang journalists managed to tear their eyes away from their FALLOUT BOY posters long enough to turn that band and Marco with them into an international phenomenon. To be honest he sounds pretty goddamn potent right here, the rougher edge of his performance for "Stigmata" being channelled into an even more aggressive assault - check out his raucous yelled vocals for the pummeling Power Metal of “I'm Here.”
Zach's guitar tone sounds better than ever, setting the standard again for albums to come. With a solid, growling tone the big head-pounding riffs are right at the centre of the album, Janne Tolsa spinning out into production orbit to augment the sound from afar with tinkling synths and humming hammonds that accentuate the riffs or complementary atmospheric soundscapes for songs like “Warhead.”
“Crawlspace” and “Dark Star Burning” are archetypal TAROT fist-pumpers for the new century, both tense and anthemic as hell. “Warhead” is a truly excellent mid-paced number, taking its cue from the two albums preceding this but showing far improved songwriting with an ominous build through chugging guitars into an epic chorus. The groove is an important part of TAROT's latter-day sound, and the verse riff here sounds so good I can see why they stuck with the formula. “The Scourger” is also very cool, a slow, grinding song with a call-back chorus punctuated by Tommi Salmela's voice.
Overall the songwriting retains some of the ambition from "To Live Forever" and "Stigmata," but finally showing again the knack for accessibility and memorability that "Follow Us Into Madness" embodied. Basically, they get it right. Really hit the nail on the head. “Shining Black” is both beautifully atmospheric and crushingly heavy and groovy at the same time, Marco singing in that particular noble, sub-operatic tenor he reaches for every now and again. “Ghosts Of Me” is a funny old song, and I can't decide whether it's more mournful or sneering, with its contradictory, circular lyrical themes and curious JETHRO TULL -like sound. Either way, Marco's performance is completely stellar, switching from tenderness to commanding strength with ease. Anyone of the opinion this man is only highly though of is his association with NIGHTWISH can go buy a monkey. “Ice” also set the convention for TAROT closing their albums with lengthy experimental songs, a brilliantly strange space-Western epic with fuzzy ambient synths and twanging acoustic guitars. Hurray, Firefly!
So after a wobbly decade, TAROT were back in full force with an album full of quality songs, and tons of energy and creativity. With “Dark Star Burning”, “Warhead” and “Ghosts Of Me” some of the best songs of their career and the remainder of the album extremely solid with perhaps the exception of the slightly-off “The Punishment”, “For The Glory Of Nothing” is a gem hidden by the large scale success of "Suffer Our Pleasures" and subsequent TAROT albums, all of which derived from the sound and feel of this record.
Oh yeah, and the JETHRO TULL cover is just so cool.
(Online October 22, 2011)