Tarot is a Finnish power metal band originally formed in the mid-80s. After achieving a small degree of success throughout the 90s, particularly in Japan, they just sort of dissipated, with the members going on to other projects – most notably bassist/vocalist Marco Hietala joining fellow Finnish superstars Nightwish. Well, that band’s label, Spinefarm, took a keen interest in the status and future of Tarot, and after persuasion, the band agreed to reform and began work on a new album in late 2002. Suffer Our Pleasures is that album.
OK, so I just learned all that five minutes ago. Truth of the matter is that I knew nothing of this band when I first picked up the album a couple of months back, but I knew they had to be an old school metal band, and I feared they would be an incredibly cheesy, dated-sounding one. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the band has matured with the times, as this album does not sound dated at all, and only minorly cheesy.
The sound here is great, sounding at times like Nevermore, Grave Digger, and even a little Lost Horizon. Plus, these guys can play – not necessarily fancy, but tight and effective. Which leaves us with the songs, which are strong, but not always memorable. “I Rule” kicks things off with a heavy swagger, with guitars, bass, and keyboards working together to create one hell of a sing-a-long. Later, we get “From the Void”, which follows the tried-and-true power metal formula and includes a bridge/chorus combination with vocal melodies that will stick in your head for days. “From the Shadows” works in a similar fashion, and is one of the heavier songs on the disc. Now, for the closer, we get something a little different. “Painless” answers the question, “What would power metal sound like on acoustic guitar?”. The answer: pretty damn cool. It almost sounds like a heavy metal campfire song, complete with choral-style choruses – and a few electric guitar licks for good measure.
Unfortunately, that’s about it for the truly memorable songs. “Riders of the Last Day” and “Of Time and Dust” are slower numbers that are largely forgettable, and are more like speed bumps on this ride. Other tracks, like “Pyre of Scars”, “Undead Son”, and “Convulsions” are good enough, but you aren’t likely to remember them long after they finish.
For power metal, you could do a lot worse than Suffer Our Pleasures, but you could also do a lot better. They do have a bit of a heavier edge to set them apart from their contemporaries, but in a genre where only the cream rise to the top, you need a little more to make a serious impact. I like it, but I can’t in good faith recommend it to the masses.