|Classic Review: Tarot - Stigmata|
Label: Bluelight Records
Year released: 1995
Genre: Power Metal
Review online: December 11, 2008
Reviewed by: Larry Griffin
Rated 4.67/5 (93.33%) (24 Votes)
Of all of Tarot's albums from the 90s - To Live Forever, Stigmata and For the Glory of Nothing - this is the best one, being more consistent and interesting than the ones sandwiching it on both sides. Now, if you want to know why this is the case...well, your guess is as good as mine; I don't know why a band would make two flawed albums with a better one in-between...but that's beside the point. Stigmata, like every other Tarot album, has a few stellar cuts and a few lackluster ones with a lot of decent ones mixed in, but the point is that it's still the best album these Finnish Metal maestros put out in the 90s, boasting a tight, well constructed set of melodic, catchy firecrackers for your consumption - and it is quite delicious and rewarding, at that.
First off, Marco's vocals are as clear and powerful as they ever have been, although I would actually say I like them better than on past albums, as the production here puts him right at the front of the mix, and his pristine higher ranges sound great. The guitar-work is less Dio-influenced this time, and it generally follows a pattern that I would describe as a prototypical version of what would come to be known as the modern Power Metal sound, with cleaner, less frantic riffs and longer solos. The keyboards are also very prominent on this album, and in fact, they would never be quite this prominent in Tarot's music ever again. Their hypnotic, majestic melodies back up the crunchy riffs with style and class to boot. Not many bands were playing with keys like this back in 1995! This whole album is very mature, and it sounds like the band is comfortable with their sound here, which is always nice. There are hints of Prog here, and they do this justice - clearly the band was too creative and interesting to spend their entire career bashing out simplistic songs like "Pharao"!
The songs themselves are not quite as youthful and brash as those on the previous three albums, aside from rattling opener "Angels of Pain" and high-speed cooker "Race the Light," which is one of the weaker songs here anyway. Of the rest, "E.T.I." is by far the best; a long, mid-paced number with a heavy Sabbathine riff backed up by the ethereal synths, as well as a huge, anthemic and complex chorus that will stay in your head for a while. The title track is also very good, more proggy and intricate than you would expect from this band, with a gamut of time changes and keyboard/guitar inter-plays that will make Dream Theater fans happy - but don't get me wrong, this song is still Tarot to the core. The atmospheric "State of Grace" is surely an oddity for them, but that isn't to say it's a wasted effort. The melodic, catchy duo of "Shades in Glass" and "As One" provides enough hooks to fill the grand canyon, too, with the former having one of Marco's more ambitious vocal performances, and the latter knocking your teeth out with crystalline synths and masterful articulation. "The Teeth" might seem unimpressive at first gander, but it is actually quite a tight and biting affair, filled with subtle melodies and a sterling vocal performance. Only the short ballad "Sleepless" remains entirely unmemorable, merely for the fact that it is so much shorter and quieter than the rest of this album.
As a whole, this is one of Tarot's best albums, and while it is not as immediately gratifying as the three that came after it, Stigmata is an intense and quite marvelous affair that you would do well to pick up if you are a fan of catchy melodic Metal as I am. This is a powerful statement of the '90s underground, so go get it right now. Recommended.
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