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As subtle as a jackhammer - 30%

kapitankraut, September 12th, 2007

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.