Forgotten Gems: Tarot-Spell Of Iron
I hadn't thought about this album in awhile which is a tragic shame because if their is one band who truly define heavy metal it's Tarot. So, what made me decide to give Spell Of Iron a spin and a nod? Well, while visiting another metal blog ( the always excellent Stay Heavy) I noticed that Tarot decided to re-record this this album which by the way was their debut album. Alright, I'll get this out of the way and say that yes Marco Hietala (vocals/bass) did end up in Nightwish and that is probably where most people know him from. That my friends is a true tragedy though as Tarot has enjoyed a long and successful career in their native Finland. In fact they still remain one of Finland's top metal bands and have quite a catalog of music to their name. They were formed in the early eighties by the Hietala brothers (Marco and guitarist Zachary). As I said Tarot play plain, honest-to-goodness old traditional heavy metal on Taste Of Iron. And they have continued in that matter which is rather surprising since other bands from the same time period felt pressure to become more commercial to appease the masses. "Wings Of Darkness" is probably the most well known song on the release and it is good. That said though "Midwinter Nights" starts off the album with some excellent headbanging metal. There was nothing pretentious about Tarot. They were really just a straightforward heavy metal band. It surprises me that Zachary didn't make more of a name for himself outside of Tarot because his guitar playing is top notch. On "Dancing On The Wire" he plays these riffs that are dark and tense and just plain evil. Obviously predating the similar style of melodic death metal that would appear years later it does make you wonder. Coincidence? I think not. "Back In The Fire" is straight up metal. Think early Oz and the sort. Similar in nature though I give the edge to Tarot. Sometimes the album reminds you of Iron Maiden ("Never Forever") and other times Black Sabbath ("Midnight Nights"). And yet the band still manages to sound like nobody other than Tarot. It is weird to think that Tarot had everything going for them (sound, look, charm, etc) but couldn't make an impact anywhere other than their homeland. Regardless, the instrumental "De Mortui Nil Nisi Bene" showcases the skills these guys had as they rock out to some serious charming riffs. Real traditional metal fans (Iron Maiden, Dio,Oz,Accept,etc) would do well to check out this album. It was re-mastered and re-released several years back so tracking down a copy should not be too difficult. The only drawback for Tarot is that the tracks on Spell Of Iron do tend to sound alike at times. Many new bands suffer this same fate and that shouldn't stop you from checking out this mid eighties gem.