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Tarot - Follow Me Into Madness (9/10) - Finland - 1988

Genre: Heavy Metal
Label: Bluelight Records
Playing time: 42:09
Band homepage: Tarot

Tracklist:

  1. Descendants Of Power
  2. Rose On The Grave
  3. Lady Deceiver
  4. Follow Me Into Madness
  5. Blood Runs Cold / Happy End
  6. No Return
  7. I Don't Care Anymore
  8. Breathing Fire
  9. I Spit Venom
  10. Shadow In My Heart
Tarot - Follow Me Into Madness

The clawed hand that held a tarot card on “The Spell Of Iron” reaches through an open window, curtains swept aside in the night air, to sink its talons into an unsuspecting young cartoon wench. Having shown us their instruments and methods on that explosive debut, TAROT were ready to reach out and really do some damage. “Follow Me Into Madness” continues in much the vein of its predecessor, featuring a track list structured from many of the same elements as the previous record and integrating similar influences - just better. It all hangs together with remarkable professionalism and, thankfully, retains the same fresh-faced enthusiasm as the debut.

 

From the get-go with “Descendants Of Power” TAROT flex their Power Metal muscles, charging out of the gates with uncomplicated fury and an improved eye for song structure. Most importantly, a slice of racing, headbanging Speed Metal that stands out in their catalogue as one of those songs that will instantly hook you in and make you want to hear more of the band. “Blood Runs Cold” is perhaps the best Speed Metal romp by the band however; everything's in high-gear and Marco's shouted chorus sounds totally confident over the hurtling drums. And the ho-down, hootenanny ending is lots of fun too.

 

When not charging about slaying non-believers left and right with the deadly Speed Metal of “Breathing Fire” and the two songs mentioned above, TAROT let themselves rock out a bit. Things are no less heavy though. “I Spit Venom” has a good rock feel, not arena rock as was being peddled by DEF LEP at the time, but proper old school Heavy Rock with bouncy guitar riffs, Zachary's trademark pinch harmonics and some Cozy Powell impersonation by drummer Pecu Cinnari. “I Don't Care Anymore” plods along with the same forceful Rock sound shown on “Love's Not Made For My Kind”, but even more nihilistic and aggressive. It shows a talent for anthem-writing that would serve TAROT well over the years. “Rose On The Grave” is just what you want for a Heavy Metal single that stays true to the record it's cut from, epic songwriting for a driving and bleak Metal hymn. The title track features a suspiciously familiar lead riff, very goddamn like DIO's “The Last In Line”, “Egypt (The Chains Are On)” or maybe “Sacred Heart.” It works sublimely though, and I actually wish TAROT had done more music in this stomping style. “Shadow In My Heart” is the album's equivalent of “Things That Crawl At Night."

 

There is enough tongue-in-cheek aggro and everyman romance in the lyrics to suit the '80s horror movie album cover, coming through best in the catchy-as-hell “Lady Deceiver”, with its humorously twisted message and chest-beating performance by Marco. Somehow, big bro Zach steals the spotlight again, pulling out a passionate and enthralling guitar solo. Ultimately, cuts like this just show what a stunning team the two make. The other instruments seem to take a back seat to allow space for the titanic wrestling going on between the singer and the axeman. Marco was beginning to formulate the vocal style that would eventually get him hired into the ranks of NIGHTWISH, with a more toned down yet operatic approach. The vocal breaks on the title track are nothing short of staggering, with the blonde man howling in an emotional tenor. Elsewhere, the two make “No Return” a TAROT classic, all blasting power chords and catchy leads. A slight echo is put on Marco's voice, which brings out one of his best performances ever, every note right in place and genuine feeling in his voice. I can listen to this one over and over again quite happily. And you know what, sometimes I do.

 

TAROT etch their imprint into the fading decade of the eighties with a bloody-minded determination to embody everything that was good about said ten years. They always reflect their upbringing and aspirations, but show genuine talent for strong songwriting and solid musicianship that would see them survive (sometimes by the skin of their teeth) into the next decade, and the next, and the next. Musically, the general feel of the album is not too far from BLACK SABBATH's “Headless Cross” (which would be released a year later), a heavier version of that album's combination of bluesy riffs overlaid with Power Metal influences in the melodies.

 

To justify the significantly higher score than I gave its predecessor, this album has one distinguishing trait; where “The Spell Of Iron” faltered, “Follow Me Into Madness” doesn't. The band were still working with three or four different sounds, but where before they hadn't quite got it all to work together here they nail it. The band kept their focus, and all the potential the debut promised is fulfilled here, not something a sophomore effort often does. An astounding statement for straightforward, true Heavy Metal from a country now known for its super-melodic chart Metal bands and its (awesome) roster of Doom outfits. If not for the crushing “Suffer Our Pleasures”, it would be the band's best. Essential Metal from 1988, nonetheless.

(Online October 26, 2011)

Jon Cheetham



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