Dark Moor
Tarot

OK, here’s the thing about concept records. There are only just a few like Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime and Savatage’s Streets that are great from start to finish. The reason is that when you focus on writing songs to fit into a story or theme rather than writing songs you feel, there are always going to be at least two or three songs on the record that are going to feel forced.

So, when I took a look at this record, I didn’t have very high hopes. I imagined a group of guys sitting in a room, and one of them says, “Hey, I’ve got a great idea, let’s write an album called ‘Tarot’ and base every song on one of the cards from the deck.” I expected every song here to sound like one of those forced songs, but surprisingly there are some really strong numbers scattered throughout the record. True enough, some sound cold, clinical and devoid of feeling and emotion, like the bland “The Star,” which sounds like a generic power metal number.

Those aside, there are some really nice songs to be found in this collection. The short classical piece “The Magician” that opens the record is interesting, sounding like the theme from a Conan movie, and the second track “The Chariot” is perhaps the strongest song on the record with some real balls in places and some nice operatic flourishes. They return to that operatic approach on “The Emperor” – think “Ave Satani” – and the classical bits and deathy vocals in places are nice touches. “Devil in the Tower” blends a Blind Guardian-esque medieval feel on the beginning with some more of that black mass-style chanting.

I thought the band missed an opportunity on “Death.” I mean, it just calls for a few of those growls that we’ve heard here and there throughout the record, but they’re strangely missing. The use of Beethoven’s Fifth to open “The Moon” is a nice touch, but unfortunately for Dark Moor, you can’t get much better than the Trans-Siberian Orchestra version if you’re looking for a metal take on the Fifth, and this one pales in comparison. It lacks the lightning, thunder and fire found in the TSO version. The rest of the 11-plus minute tune fades too often into that standard power metal mode, which overshadows the better moments of the song.

Admittedly there are some moments on the record where I’m thinking that I’ve heard this a dozen or more times already this year alone (“The Star,” “Lovers,” “The Hanged Man”), but overall this is a surprisingly strong effort. I’d like to hear a little more of the chants and classical influences and a little less of the standard power metal fare, but I’d say Tarot is definitely worth a listen.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Fred Phillips
August 6th, 2007

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