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Tarot - Crows fly black 4.5/5

Reviewed: 1-12-07


1. Crows fly black
2. Traitor
3. Ashes to the stars
4. Messenger of gods
5. Before the skies come down
6. Tides
7. Bleeding dust
8. You
9. Howl!
10. Grey

I must admit that I am a Tarot virgin listener. I also must admit that I only found out about Tarot is because I am a fan of Nightwish. The connection; vocalist Marco Heitala. Obviously I knew that Tarot had been around longer than Nightwish, but I didn’t know that the band debuted way back in 1985.

‘Crows fly black’ is Tarot’s 7th full-length CD and according to their website, this CD is Tarot’s most darkest and gloomiest of them all. After listening to this CD (many, many times), I must say that this dark and gloomy side suits them to a tea, ‘cos this CD kicks major ass!

The first thing that surprised me was the sound of Tarot. As a Finnish metal band, they don’t quite fit the sound-mould of the majority of metal bands that hail from Finland. I must say that this was a great surprise. The 2nd thing was the voice of Marco Heitala. Again, being a virgin Tarot listener, the only time I’ve heard Marco sing is with a few Nightwish songs. Oh, what another wonderful surprise, as Marco is such a fantastic vocalist. He can mix it up with the best of them, soft to mid-paced or even hard aggression, this guy can do it all, and do it extremely well.

With Tarot’s sound, they play traditional heavy metal, but also with the use of keyboards, which have been used perfectly throughout this CD. I also noticed a lot of groove metal thrown into the mix, which made the riffs and melodies even better. Let me just say that there is a lot of fist pumping and head-banging moments throughout the CD. The CD is full to the brim of catchy riffs, heavy bass guitar, catchy chorus’ and sweet sweet solos. The songs are mixed up well here too, from slow to mid-paced tracks, to fast pounding numbers, heavy metal anthems and even a very good ballad.

The title-track kicks things off and straight away after a slow atmospheric build up, the main killer riff grabs you and the head-banging begins. The mid-paced track rumbles along with Marco’s vocals changing from soft to aggression perfectly. “Traitor” is a fast pounding track where Marco’s signature gruff vocals takes over the song. Another great riff and a killer solo is also accompanied. This one would sound great live.

“Ashes to the stars” is another good mid to fast-paced track, which could have come straight from a Bruce Dickinson solo CD, especially with the chorus. Marco’s vocals, again, are a standout, as well as a rockin’ solo. “Messenger of gods” is another groove-filled metal pounder, which has a “dirty southern rock” feel to it, as if the band had come straight out of Texas in the ‘ol U.S. of A. The solo in this song is friggin awesome and if you haven’t pulled out the air guitar by now, there is something wrong with you.

“Before the skies come down” is the next track, and in my opinion, the best track on the CD. And I would go even further than that and say it’s one of the best tracks for 2006. Yeah, it’s that bloody good. It has another fist pumping, head-banging, groove-filled riff that hits you right in the face. The song is a metal anthem that would go completely off during a concert. Marco’s vocals are soft and melodic during the verses and then high and aggressive during the chorus’. Finally, another ripping solo, that makes you break out the air guitar once again.

“Tides” is a ballad, which slows things down a bit. Here we hear just how great Marco’s voice is and how much range he really has. His soft voice is perfect on this track, full of emotion and melody. Accompanied by back up singer, Tommi Salmela, who was just made a full member of the band after 10 years of service, this track is done very well indeed, as the songs grows from soft to heavy, with a soulful solo at the end.

I’d rather not do a track-by-track review here, as I don’t want to give everything away. So I will just say that the remainder of the tracks are all awesome, especially “Bleeding dust” and “Howl!” The production is superb on this CD; everything is exactly how it should be... strong, heavy and clear. ‘Crows fly black’ is easily one of the better surprises of 2006, especially for me, and would most certainly fit into the top 10 metal CDs of 2006.

This is an instant purchase for metal fans... you will not be disappointed.




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