Another solid effort

With the majority of members of commercial metal juggernaut Nightwish seemingly on an extended hiatus following a period of well-publicized dramas and an extended bout of touring, bassist/co-vocalist Marco Hietala has again stepped back in time for another round with Tarot, the band he co-founded with brother and guitarist Zachary in 1986.

While having built their own fan base in many parts of Europe,they are yet to make a sizeable impact elsewhere. The band’s previous album, 2006’s Crows Fly Black came and went rather quickly, despite being a solid exercise in heavy metal. Gravity of Light is a suitably melodic follow-up that’s about on-par with its predecessor.

Gravity of Light doesn’t differ much from its predecessor and takes few risks, but doesn’t do too much to upset the proverbial applecart either. The guitars possess a fair degree of crunch, without being particularly heavy and much of their layered, keyboard-laden melodic heavy metal/power metal sound would be quite palatable to the metal masses, were it not for the over-the-top bombast of ‘Satan Knows’, instantly memorable opener ‘Satan Is Dead’ and the rather infectious ‘I Walk Forever’. Also, aside from their flirtations with brief soundscapes and the orchestral pomp of closer ‘Gone’, they do tend to remain within the parameters of conventional song structure and won’t be an impenetrable prospect for those just discovering the band. There are a handful of stirring choruses and hook-laden riffs on this record; not a bad strike rate for an album containing a mere ten tracks. Additional ear candy in the form of tasteful lead work (‘Pilot of All Dreams’) are other neat flourishes.

Tommi Salmela and Marco Hietala co-handle the vocal duties, but thankfully their doesn’t appear to be any System Of A Down-esque ego trips going on here when it comes to sharing the vocal parts and arranging the songs. The former takes the vocal reigns on ‘Calling Down The Rain’ but there is a tangible chemistry between the two; their trade-off’s on ‘Sleep In The Dark’ are a standout. There are Nightwish-esque touches (the intro to ‘Sleep In The Dark’, for one), but Marco’s distinctively soaring, commanding and urgent tones do work in the band’s favour by giving them an identity from the waves of Euro-clones, while also providing a selling point for newcomers, while still avoiding being a cheap sound-a-like.

For an album that runs just a fraction under 40 minutes, Gravity of Light does get bogged down in a few snippets of pedestrian fare. Regardless of whatever is in the cards for Tarot’s future, this is another solid effort.

1. Satan is Dead
2. Hell Knows
3. Rise!
4. Pilot of All Dreams
5. Magic and Technology
6. Calling Down the Rain
7. Caught in the Deadlights
8. I Walk Forever
9. Sleep in the Dark
10. Gone