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A Forgotten Gem - 80%

MaidenFan, December 13th, 2008

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.