Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Tarot – Reflections (2016) / 91%

Reflecting the past into the present

Since its formation in 2011, Tasmania's Tarot (formed by Wil Fried, the frontman of excellent The Wizar'd and owner of Heavy Chains) has been churning quality releases steadily and many people including myself were excitedly expecting their debut full length. Like all the projects of Wil (called The Hermit here), Tarot is quite special in its traditionalism and they're simply top notch. Compared to his other bands, they're more soothing and explores different facets of classic rock music.

Admittedly short at 34 minute, the 7 tracks are all excellent and while the influences are easily perceivable (Uriah Heep, Deep Purple), it's so much more than a cheap throwback. Tarot are mixing the lovely organ found in heavy rock of long ago with the most relaxing heavy metal known to mankind. The two main metal bands I was reminded of during Reflections are Pagan Altar and Lordian Guard. The supple guitar tone and the ethereal guitar leads combined with the high pitched nasal vocal delivery of Wil (not as exaggerated as in his trad doom metal band) recalls the contributions to metal from these two great bands. If you're familiar with Lordian Guard (founded by the creator of Warlord), you'll hear the similarity in the vocals right away, same if you like the late Terry Jones.

Mixing hard rock, NWOBHM, proto heavy metal, prog rock and even folk is not a simple task but Tarot definitely does it well. There's bits where they remind me of the folky side of Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull like the short instrumental title track and I really dig this and I'd like them to expand this side! The tracks are catchy, mid-paced affairs, a track like “Mountain Throne” has these truly memorable guitar parts and the solo rocks. It's streamlined, has no useless moments and has this super expansive instrumentation. Wil plays the guitar, the keys, the organ and sings so he's the cornerstone of the project.

It's mesmerizing and it feels good when you're listening to them. If you're looking for metal or rock that's dangerous or dark, listen to something more edgy and vulgar because this is far from that. The music from this Tasmanian trio is introspective in a timeless way. They have this brillant British medieval influence that's not absent from the aforementioned metal bands but also reminiscent of Genesis' Selling England by the Pound… Their sound is both classy and majestic (an appropriate adjective the band uses itself to describe their music), the guitars are really friendly with the organ and they live together in this rich, grand loft. It's also the best production they ever had, the riffs aren't heavy most of the time but they sound very good and I'd fuck this organ sound if I could, it's so lovely.

I need to talk about the artwork a little since it's freaking gorgeous. Karmazid is currently one of the best metal artists and I'm happy the band picked him for this debut full length. Tarot always had superb artwork but they were lo-fi amateur affairs (except the compilation The Warrior's Spell), they were quite charming anyway but this one is fully detailed and showcases the occult side of the project. The album has been released digitally (and soon on CD) but a vinyl version will follow on the excellent Van Records and I'd say it's worth to own, not only because the art is fantastic but because the music is superb as well.

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