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Saturday, 2 June 2018

Tarot “Reflections” 2016 Australia Hard Rock


Tarot “Reflections” 2016 Australia Hard Rock
full bandcamp
https://hcrtarot.bandcamp.com/album/reflections

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After a series of demos and EP releases scattered out over the last several years, the Australian heavy metal band Tarot have released their first full-length album this year. Their sound is a polished and enchanting, and is a compelling musical statement borrowing equally from heavy metal giants like Iron Maiden as well as from classic rock greats like Uriah Heep. The end result is an album that is at once melodic, punchy, engaging, and captivating. More critical heavy metal listeners might balk at the clean production, but as clean as it is, it’s far from sterile, and the deceptively simple approach to their compositions does more than make up for that. 
The album doesn’t feel like a lot of heavy metal does. You won’t hear anything raw or impressively fast on this release. The lead player rarely ventures into typical metal soloing and the stereotypical heroics of metal guitarists. The rhythm guitarist isn’t pulling out any mind-bending riffs, either. All the effort of the individual band members is entirely put into their chemistry as a whole. And it works. The rhythm section slowly plods along, providing the perfect matrix for the haunting vocal harmonies and ethereal synths that ride along on the top of the mix. Probably the thing that they do best is simply variety. By that I don’t mean that each song sounds completely different, but rather that in each song, there are no comfortable spots where they hang out needlessly. As soon as a musical idea is complete, they throw a curve ball to keep things interesting. Sometimes it’s a sudden change in time or tempo, the addition of a different instrument, or simply an unexpected interlude. Either way, there are no boring moments on this album. 
The highlight of the album comes with the penultimate track, “Mountain Throne” which of all the pieces is the heaviest with an opening riff that plays like a bombastic tribute to Grieg and Strauss whilst still incorporating their haunting vocal style. I chose that particular track as the highlight primarily because of all the tracks it certainly stands out the most, but the rest of the tracks really aren’t any less impressive. I think you have to approach this album as a natural continuation of psychedelic rock but with the added benefit of the incorporation of metal riffs. If you go into this expecting raw and slicing riffs, howling vocals, and scorching leads, you will walk away nonplussed. If you approach this as a highly developed psych rock album, you’ll find a lot to chew on……~


I don’t think anyone can deny the sort of magic that stems from the synth-laden hard rock of the 60s and 70s. Perhaps it’s only because these sorts of sounds have become naturally ingrained with this imagery over the decades, but does any sound better represent the wonders of magic and might, wizards and warriors, than the long-haired anthems of these psychedelia-addled daydreamers? It’s hard to evoke any other image once you hear those dusty synthesisers roll on in. While Australia’s hard-rocking Tarot still sound clean and without the dated hums of an older recording to inflect the appropriate nostalgia, there’s no shaking the feeling you get when listening to Reflections for the first time. It’s just like the feeling you got when you first heard Demons and Wizards, or Legend’s Fröm the Fjörds. There’s wonder, excitement and elation at the embraced intones of these old, forgotten sounds. For the next half an hour, Tarot welcomes you back to that world. 

Reflections performs exactly as advertised. It’s just a full-on, heavy dose of psychedelic hard rock right to the heart. Don’t fix what isn’t broken, right? The rip-roaring opener ‘Autumn Conjuration’ sucks you in with its whirlwind of irresistible melodic leads, acoustic beauty and shows you the short and skinny of it. ‘Heed the Call’ demonstrates that tried and true, fist-pumping, galloping hymnal we’re all familiar with. ‘Strange Dimensions’ is the slow-burning epic that takes you to…well, strange dimensions. And if the drum work on ‘Cloak and Dagger’ isn’t some of the most subtly impressive musicianship on the album, then it’s probably all other aspects of the music, considering how goddamn tight this whole thing sounds. 

It’s fair to deduce that an album like Reflections will naturally resonate the most (and perhaps, only) with those who have their heart shaped with this sound. Hearkening to the children who grew up with heavy psych and hard rock in their ears and a lust for fantasy that they never truly lost. From those opening acoustic guitar strings, the soaring, majestic electric guitar and the rising synths, you’re lost within its eerily familiar trappings. Tarot has created the ultimate anthem to epic metal in 2016…..by….IakSakkakh …..~


Not the Tarot with the shouty guy from Nightwish, these Tasmanian devils possess a decidedly anachronistic point of view. This stuff sounds like 70s pulp fantasy book covers look – and not the badass ones done by Michael Whelan. They reside in the Shire, not Mordor. 
It’s hard to examine Reflections without touching upon what came before. It’s pretty easy to tell what their record collection looks (and smells) like. Their strength lies in how cannily they mix the ingredients in their cauldron. There are recognizable pieces here and there, sure: a Buck Dharma guitar flourish in “Strange Dimensions,” atmospheric Rainbow organ underpinning “Heed the Call,” the Led Zeppelin III homage of the title track. Uriah Heep, Pagan Altar, and Gentle Giant poke their heads in frequently. It always feels like you’re right on the cusp of being able to place who they sound like, but you can never quite nail them down. Fortunately, that dance fascinates, not distracts. 
There’s a pastoral quality to these songs that really shines through, the production making it seem as if they were captured in a fairy glade. Considering the potential Tarot had on their preceding EP’s – a potential that was often hampered by subpar production – they more than fulfill their promise here. The main point of contention for some people may be The Hermit’s singing, which always sounds just on the verge of going flat. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t (he’s at his best when he’s at his gentlest, like on the beginning of “Living for Today”). It’s not enough to poison the rest. Don’t call Reflections a throwback; call it a peek through the mists to a better time that never existed. ….By Jeff Treppel. ….~



The Hermit - Singer, Piano, Keyboard, Guitars 
The Hierophant - Bass
The Magician - Battery



Tracklist 
A1 Autumn Conjuration
A2 Heed The Call
A3 Strange Dimensions
B4 Cloak And Dagger
B5 Reflections
B6 Mountain Throne
B7 Living For Today 

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