without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
I'll start right off by saying that this album deserves more attention that it gets. Of course knowing that its release date was 1993, a rather low point in metal, it's inevitable people thought it would be just another sucky album from that period in time. I found the first two albums by this band very good, so I decided I should give it a chance anyway. And I didn't like it very much the first time, but the album did grow on me after a while.
It's pretty much heavy metal with some influences of Black Sabbath, and you can hear some Dio melodies in there as well. It has some very nice notable features, for example the vocals. Man, this guy has such a powerful voice, and it suits this music so well. This is the reason why I actually prefer this over most Sabbath stuff. Also, the guitar playing is just great, you will find some really nice and unique heavy metal riffs here. Just check out some of those intro riffs, or the melodic, tasteful keyboard opening of Live Hard, Die Hard. This album actually sounds rather epic most of the time, even some of the shorter songs have an epic feel to them. You also got a few nice balls-out rocking songs, there's something for every mood in there.
But really, I don't know any heavy metal band that really sounds like this at all, while still being very good musically. This doesn't mean the album is entirely without flaws, though. As the previous reviewer pointed out, this album is really long, and listening to it as a whole is kind of tiring. I usually find myself listening to only the songs I'm in the mood for at the time, but what absolutely has to be said, is that all songs on here are good. I didn't find any mediocre song on this album all, just some that are better than others. And the awesome vocals and guitar riffs manage to keep my attention on pretty much all the songs. The songwriting doesn't let you down anywhere on this album.
So in the end, you might not want to listen to this album in its entirety everytime, but it has a lot of good music to offer, and for that it gets 80% from me.
With To Live Forever, Tarot began a trilogy of albums that would veer to and fro in style and quality, only approaching undoubted excellence at the end of the trilogy with For The Glory Of Nothing. But that is another story. In 1993, the ballsy, traditional heavy metal exemplified on Follow Me Into Madness was five years in the past, and metal was having a bad time. Iron Maiden were firmly ensconced in a batch of sub-standard releases, death metal was already being rudely de-hymenated by modern frippery, and Gothenburg was rising. Not that there wasn't some great stuff about (Megadeth and Vader were looking pretty damned good around about this point in time, for example), but traditional metal seemed to be losing out to power metal, thrash and gothic metal.
So anyway, the brothers Hietala and their merry Finns rebooted the leathery cadaver of their '80s output and recorded To Live Forever. Janne Tolsa, a future component of Eternal Tears' Of Sorrow's symphonic stylings, provides shrill synthesized orchestrations across the album that boost its already flamboyant sound. Marco Hietala is an almost constant vocal presence and dominates the record, to the detriment of his band members and especially Zachary's premier guitar playing abilites.
'The Colour Of Your Blood' is a strong enough track, but showing an emphasis on catchy vocal lines and a groove-based sound, meaning that Zachary Hietala is relegated to playing rather simplistic, chugging riffs and only comes into his own during the solo. Standard procedure for the rest of the album. Then the real problem with this album becomes apparent. It's a bit boring. 'The Invisible Hand' would need about two minutes subtracted from its length to make it even a passable filler, but at over six minutes it is definite skipping fodder.
The bulk of the album continues in this fashion. Although it has some decent, Born Again era Iommi-like riffs and top-notch drumming, 'The Chosen' does not justify an eight-minute length, mainly due to the fact Marco sings in the same style as the rest of the album. A more restrained approach like on 'Shadow In My Heart' could have helped make this the doomy, imposing triumph it so sorely wants to be. On 'Live Hard Die Hard', a decent riff from Zachary is squandered by a repetitive performance from Marco. With 'Tears Of Steel', it takes nearly three minutes before we get to some actual proper nice riffs. The second half of the song owns, but like everything here it all just needs something more, more focus, and better structuring.
At nearly eighty minutes in length, the album is too damn long as a whole. Very rarely could you sit through the whole thing without a couple of yawns escaping. Not that there isn't a lot going on, but they would have done well to develop a few of their new ideas rather than chucking in everything they could think of and ending up with a fourteen-track blowout. Cut down to a nine track album (that is, removing over a third) and opening with the brilliant, neck-destroying 'Sunken Graves' (sounding like a more evil rendition of Priest's 'Leather Rebel') we would have something here.
So, good bits. There is just about enough quality stuff here to keep you listening to the album through. Apart from 'Sunken Graves', 'Born Into The Flame' is decent hard rock, 'My Enslaver' is a pretty good track, while the more carefully constructed heavy metal epic 'Iron Stars' and the Pink Floyd-inspired 'Guardian Angel' end the album on actually quite a strong note. It is ambition that this record suffers for. This was Tarot's attempt at an epic, an all-out long-ass metal masterpiece. Unfortunately there simply isn't enough really quality material to make it happen for the boys. With this tracklist:
'Born Into The Flame'
'The Colour Of Your Blood'
maybe about four minutes of 'The Chosen'
'In My Blood'
the last two minutes of 'Tears Of Steel'
'Iron Stars', which actually merits its seven minutes length
probably, I dunno, five minutes of 'Guardian Angel'
...I would really be able to smell what they were cooking. I'd give that like a high 70s score, but the album loses points for the fact that the good, succulent meat is surrounded by so much fat.
Having just read the previous review, I feel duty-bound to put the record straight.
The previous reviewer pointed out that Tarot are nothing like Nightwish, which is correct. However, they are looking at the album (and the band) with biased eyes, as if they are almost disappointed that the Tarot-Nightwish link is not stronger. I too came to know of Tarot through Nightwish, but I had none of those expectations and listened to the band with an open mind.
Tarot are, through no fault of their own, one of Finnish metal's best-kept secrets. Their combination of fresh, powerful riffs combined with Marco's vocals and melodies make them comparable to the venerable heavy metal stalwarts such as Helloween, while the agressive edge found on tracks like 'Sunken Graves' (which the previous reviewer mistakenly labels "a wall of excruciating sound") gives them yet another edge and another facet to add to their already impressive repertoire.
In terms of production, To Live Forever is a lot more polished than the band's earlier releases, which is a double-edged sword for a band with such a raw sound. Contrary to the previous review, the album is balanced superbly, with the guitar riffs jutting into the mix and Marco's ever-present and Steve Harris-esque driving bass driving the tracks.
As the year of release (1993) would suggest, the riffing has evolved to be slightly more technical and refined than the out-and-out showmanship of the 80s - this can be seen by the early-90s forays of bands like Iron Maiden.
This aspect of the album definitely isn't all negative though - there are moments of brilliance, 'Do You Wanna Live Forever' and 'The Colour of Your Blood' are particular highlights of the hyperactive days of old. The band is also maturing and showing its dark side with 'The Invisible Hand' and 'Live Hard Die Hard'.
Another tangent Tarot took with this album is the introduction of keyboards, giving it the symphonic edge which later became a major component of Nightwish's sound. Unlike several bands since, Tarot have kept the keyboards purely as backing, giving the music another subtle dimension.
Overall, it is an extremely solid release. Personally not my favourite Tarot album, as I'm more of a fan of the "classic" heavy metal, but definitely a keeper. Tarot was by no certain means meant to be anything close to Nightwish (considering Oceanborn debuted in 1998, a full ten years after Tarot's first album) and such should not be compared to it. Nightwish has their facets and Tarot has theirs.
For fans of heavy metal as it was born to be; aggressive and powerful, yet subtle, and melodic, this is a gem of a release, from one of metal's most forgotten and underrated bands.
A great many readers will probably have arrived at this album via Nightwish, Marco Hietala's globally-renowned band. The first possible misconception to dispel here is that Tarot sounds in any way like Nightwish - it does not. Tarot is essentially a traditional heavy metal outfit, at least on this album, with the customary guitar-bass-drums lineup you might expect. There are keyboards, too, but don't expect anything symphonic or power-metal-ish.
In a word, "To Live Forever" can be described as "loud". In fact, "too loud" would probably be a fairer description. There is very little in the way of quiet and more reflective passages, with Marco and friends instead cranking out loud riff after loud riff, overlaid with equally frantic drumming. As a vocalist, perhaps the kindest thing which can be said about Marco's style on this album is that it suits the music backing him. There's nothing subtle about his delivery at all, and on the choruses of most tracks (the title track and "My Enslaver" being prime examples) he sounds more as though his trousers are on too tight rather than anything much else.
I normally wouldn't dwell on the volume issue much beyond this, but the mix actually seems to have been done wrongly on this album - rather than just badly, which would have been excusable. Played over earphones, there is almost a wall of excruciating sound, which I'm not sure is great for the speakers in your earphones or (most importantly) your eardrums. Mutliply that over 15 tracks (I have the remastered version) which frequently run over 5 minutes and I'm sure there's a health warning brewing. I know, I know, metal is meant to be turned up to insane volumes and used to frighten the neighbours, but when there's no appreciable sonic variation and turning the volume down doesn't seem to help much either, this is a problem.
So what are the 30 points for? Well, there's an impression somewhere in this sludge that the band has serious chops. Certainly the reviews of other releases by the same band point to such a conclusion, and I find it hard to believe that Marco would have been involved in a band for so long without bringing some of his talent to bear on the thing. Maybe I just heard a badly-mixed version - or even just picked the wrong album to listen to before ripping my earphones out and swearing never to try that kind of thing again. Who knows? All I can speak about is my own experience with this album, and that is that I'd be hard-pressed to listen to it again.