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Born to dinobot parents and named after a Pokémon, one can well imagine that Tartaros mastermind Charmand Grimloch has led a hard life, and while we’re sorry for that, it has evidently had the positive side effect of improving his music by way of making him a more warped individual than those who ordinarily attempt so-called symphonic black metal. What’s so “symphonic” about symphonic black metal anyway?
1. Music. of, for, pertaining to, or having the character of a symphony or symphony orchestra.
Come on now – does your typical “symphonic black metal” band really have the character of a symphony? Perhaps a symphony that consisted solely of a string section with a part-timer on piano, and mostly just played backing chords… and we’re overlooking for a moment these bands’ rarely-more-than-incidental resemblance to black metal. I’ve got a more accurate adjective for bands like Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth: gay.
gay [gey] adjective, -er, -est
1. having or showing a merry, lively mood: gay spirits; gay music.
2. bright or showy: gay colors; gay ornaments.
3. given to or abounding in social or other pleasures: a gay social season.
I do believe that would about cover it: they are merry and lively, they are bright and showy, and they are quite disgustingly social for nominally “black metal” music. Ergo, as Webster indicates above, they play gay music.
But Tartaros is a whole different species of monster, the sort that’s only as merry as maniacal laughter or as bright as the candles of a demon-summoning ritual of evil, or whatever. Certainly it is quite anti-social, which I endorse. Lord Grimloch forgoes the standard video game synth settings on his keyboard in favor of weirder, more abstract sounds, which remind a bit of what it might sound like if the Tall Man were to join up with the Killer Klowns from Outer Space and play organ at their circus. It is very goofy, but also weird and eerie, as opposed to goofy and effeminate, which is usually what we have to put up with. It’s not very symphonic, admittedly, but we can make do. At least it isn't gay.
The keys completely dominate the music and atmosphere, with everything else just sort of being there as expected, which is something of a minus. The guitars are more technical than they have to be – less indistinct tremolo and more distinct rhythms, quite like, yes, some later Emperor or Dimmu Borgir. I’d be hard-pressed to recall a single riff from this album, but that just isn’t how the guitars work on this album. I won’t hold that against Tartaros, although when the keys drop out, leaving the guitars without the necessary air support, things get a little boring.
Drumming is provided by a machine set to “blast” (probably; if not, it might as well be). The vocals are just regular black metal vocals. That comes out to a little too much just-regularness for my taste, and I think The Red Jewel would’ve been better served if the rest of the music could match the flamboyant weirdness of the keys. Even so, I like this, even though I don’t like this sort of thing.