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Review: Tarot - The Spell of Iron MMXI
The Spell of Iron MMXI

Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Year released: 2011
Duration: 42:06
Tracks: 10
Genre: Heavy Metal


Review online: May 24, 2011
Reviewed by: Larry Griffin
Readers' Rating
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Rated 4.52/5 (90.4%) (25 Votes)

Tarot, Finland's best export, has been getting fat on mainstream success lately, and I for one couldn't be happier. I mean, what band deserves it more, huh? What band has worked so hard and produced such fine material for over 25 years and finally deserves that spotlight? Well, OK, lots of bands, but Tarot is one of them! This is a re-recording of their scrappy, energetic debut Spell of Iron, with all the songs done up in their new style with their new lineup. Let's dig right in.

For one, awesome, awesome production. Where the hell was this sound on Gravity of Light? While that album had a pretty flimsy guitar tone this one is big, heavy, clear and biting. And of course we now have two vocalists to contend with, different from Marco's sole performance on the original – he and Tommi Salmela trade off their respective coarse wailing and high, clear whine like two bandits racing across the countryside. Salmela's addition is probably the biggest sticking point for some people, and I can see why, as Marco's distinctive voice is one of the band's strongest points, and to divide up the vocal lines between two vocalists just seems like a waste of Marco's talent. But on the other hand, Salmela really doesn't sound bad, and he has a lot of charisma and style to him. I can definitely see the complaints about him, but at the same time, I'm not calling for his ousting from the band either.

The songs themselves have undergone some changes, most notably "Love's Not Made for My Kind," which is now a six minute epic in the style of some songs on the last album like "Hell Knows," with big choirs and a slow groove and all. Some of the lyrics were changed, and I think it made the title track less catchy – I miss the original chorus. Not a bad song in its new form, though. "Dancing on the Wire" now has its chorus replaced with a signature Tarot oddity in the form of a completely acoustic set of vocal lines, performed rather idiosyncratically by Tommi Salmela. This is one of the weirder, more memorable changes on here, and it's done pretty well. The instrumental "De Mortui Nil Nisi Bene," once all done on guitar, is now a jingly folk tune that you could do quite a silly dance to – not good, not bad, just different. Catchy, too.

Otherwise, the faults this album has are the same as the original had. It's not always consistent, with some forgettable shorter tunes like "Never Forever" and "Pharao," but the standouts like "Midwinter Nights" and "Wings of Darkness" are up there with Tarot's all time best. Tarot's newer style, complete with attitude-filled bass grooves, demented choirs and unsettling folksy acoustic passages, is in full force here, and this whole thing serves as a comparison piece for those who really like Tarot's last few albums. This would never have bested the original version; not really – it's a 25-year old band recreating material they wrote in their infancy. It's bound to sound a bit awkward and pieced together because of that, as the band is in a different place and a different state of mind now than when they originally wrote these songs. But it's worth your time if you're a Tarot fan, and that's all I can tell you.

More about Tarot...
Review: Crows Fly Black (reviewed by 4th Horseman)
Review: Crows Fly Black (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Review: Follow Me Into Madness (reviewed by Larry Griffin)
Review: Gravity of Light (reviewed by Larry Griffin)
Review: Spell Of Iron (reviewed by Larry Griffin)
Review: Stigmata (reviewed by Larry Griffin)
Review: Suffer Our Pleasures (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
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