Released: 2011, Kingfoo Entertainment
Reviewer: Luxi Lahtinen
To be honest, I didn´t see this coming at all.
In the year of 1986, Finnish heavy metal powerhouse, Tarot, put out their debut album, titled THE SPELL OF IRON. The very album in question, is considered one of the very cornerstones of Finnish heavy Metal these days – and it´s no wonder why. The special aura the album has carried within itself, has lasted through all these past 25 years. THE SPELL OF IRON is not only culminated to the album evergreen classic Tarot hit song, “Wings of Darkness”, but it´s got so much more to prove from itself than just one song making the album so superior as it is.
So, now 25 years later, THE SPELL OF IRON has completely been re-recorded by our aging gentlemen in Tarot. Not only the songs have been given an updated touch, but also some of the album´s lyrical content has also undergone some slight changes as well as the album´s layout has also been updated quite a bit. Big questions are, how well have the Tarot guys paid homage to their classic debut album; should THE SPELL OF IRON been left completely untouched – or was there a slight amount of sense to get the whole album re-recorded, with slightly different song arrangements and changes in the lyrical approach?
Well, since Tarot celebrates their 25th anniversary when their legendary debut record THE SPELL OF IRON was released – and from that view of point alone it makes quite a lot of sense to see this thing out – fully re-recorded with the updated song arrangements. Besides the band has got 2nd co-vocalist Tommi Salmela and keyboardist Janne Tolsa to their lineup since the days this unquestionable Tarot classic album was recorded for the first time.
Listening to THE SPELL OF IRON MMXI, which is more than a very logical title for this release, brings many nostalgic vibes back to my mind again – despite songs having changed their formula quite a bit. I quite cannot say whether some of the changes they have made on here, are for worse or for better because classic albums of bands are always considered as those classic albums – and no more or no less. A general opinion most often is they should also remain so, and should never be touched. There´s always a fear that no matter how much one would try to do justice to the originals, it´s not too often that one can reach that same vibe and feeling back to the songs again, like some twenty or even thirty years ago. This same rule applies to the Tarot camp as well – and despite the additions of both 2nd vocal lines of Tommi as well as keyboard parts of Janne on the MMXI version of THE SPELL OF IRON, the album lacks this special, unexplained aura that the original version of this very album in question, has. Then again, I guess it happens with every album when we talk about those very classics, and whenever one tries to redo them – right? Something special always tends to get lost on that path.
However, do not read me wrong. The songs overall sound all good and like refreshing works of the old classics – and I really happen to like how Tommi´s vocal parts have been fitted into the songs as well as how Janne´s keyboard sections tend to bring new life into some of the songs on the record. Songs like “Back in the Fire”, “Love´s Not Made for My Kind” – as well as the biggest and most known hit song of Tarot, “Wings of Darkness”, sound all darn good now when they have gone through this updating process, sort of bringing more depth and whole different nuances into the original song structures. A headache grows whenever you start comparing them to the originals, which is pretty much unavoidable, so sad or cynical it may sound like to some of you. And speaking of headaches, a reworked instrumental track from “De Mortui Nil Nisi Bene” honestly did shock me quite a bit. Some of you may say there´s some refreshing value in it, but in my opinion this more of shocking value overrides it somewhat easily. I mean, if you have not heard the original instrumental version of this song before, then it´s very unlikely that you might even recognize this reworked version - done from the original version, as a Tarot song - or even as an instrumental song played by a metal band. The song has gone a quite drastic metamorphosis as a matter of speaking.
Still, nothing can change the fact Tarot have pulled the best out of them while getting this wild but not extraordinary idea any more, to re-record completely their debut album – and to celebrate the album´s 25th anniversary. They do sound great and all that (besides, I could not expect anything less from these Finnish heavy metal pioneers for that matter) – and even if reaching the very same vibes and feelings back to MMXI has not quite happened here – to build up once again that special, sort of magical yet nostalgic aura of their many way landmark-ish debut has, MMXI is still a very enjoyable album after all. It reeks of many superlatives of some quality words that could be used to describe how Tarot can sound at their very best – and undoubtedly there´s a bunch of people out there that will find the same quality factors in Tarot these days as they did back in those days when THE SPELL OF IRON was catapulted high in the air.
In conclusion, both positive yet some negative rants from me in all those lines above. T.S.O.R. – MMXI is certainly nothing of groundbreaking or revolutionary as far as re-recording old classics is concerned, but a damn fine attempt it still is to re-stomp the same grounds a little bit once again where Tarot actually started from – in that rewarding year of 1986. Sincere congratulations Tarot.