By now, many metalheads are very familiar with the name Marco Hietala. Heís made quite a reputation for himself for working in Sinergy and more importantly, Nightwish. His thundering bass lines and melodramatic vocals are becoming a force to be reckoned with. This fame has helped to draw much more attention to the first band he ever formed and still plays in, both accomplishments done alongside his brother Zachary: Tarot.
Suffer Our Pleasures was coaxed out of the band by Spinefarm Records during speculation that there would never be another Tarot album. Tarot has always believed in quality over quantity. Their albums are divided by long periods of silence, sometimes of five years plus. But this emphasis on waiting to release an album until itís perfect has resulted in one of the most consistent and brilliant, if underrated, metal acts of our time. Suffer Our Pleasures is without a doubt a modern metal classic.
To start with, the most obvious strengths of the album lie in its aggressive guitarwork and soaring vocals. Zachary Hietala plays a great assortment of headbanging riffs such as the intro to I Rule
, which opens to album kicking and screaming. He makes very delightful use of pinch harmonics, but not to the obnoxious extent that you see with Zakk Wylde. Zachary reserves them for moments of emphasis and mixes it in with very clever riffing that breaks away from many of the stereotypes of metal. For example, the main riff to Pyre of Gods
uses a simple chord progression, but the root chord (D5) dominates all but the ending of the riff. The reason it doesnít sound repetitive is because of the melody. Most composers will tell you that rests can be just as important as the notes themselves, and this particular song proves just that.
Of course, Zachary does demonstrate more variety than just power chords. He has his share of blazing solos on most of the songs, including that creates a sort of ďcall and response" vibe with the backing vocals in Rider of the Last Dawn
. And thatís not to count short his excellent single-note melody riffs spread across the album in just the right places.
Marco accompanies Zachary with his usual pounding bass. Most of the time he tends to follow the guitar, but heís high enough in the mix that rather than fading out, he actually beefs up the riffs into something much more aggressive and driving. Of course, his primary focus is of course on his vocals. He displays a great range of emotion throughout the album. In I Rule
he starts out with a rather sinister, low sneer before going into a full out war cry in the chorus. He also manages to display a softer side to his voice in tracks such as Rider of the Last Day
As most power metal writers do, Marco tends to create sing-along choruses with a soaring melodies designed to get crowds going. Even more infectious is an almost maniacal tone to his voice. The best example of this would be found in the outro of Follow the Blind
which fades out to echoed laughter.
Another intriguing aspect of the music is the synthesizer. Janne Tolsa didnít join the band until their second album, but he adds a lot of rich textures to the music with his keyboards. He provides some great intros and melodies to songs such as Pyre of Gods
, Rider of the Last Day
, I Rule
and Follow the Blind
. At other times, such as in Undead Son
and Of Time and Dust
, he provides more atmosphere which heightens the dramatic air of the music greatly.
One occasionally will hear from elitists that keyboards do not belong in metal. This is just a load of meaningless crap really from people unable to accept a new paradigm, as anyone listening to this album would agree that the keys add an essential dimension to the music, which a vocals/guitar/bass/drums combo simply couldnít achieve by themselves.
As for diversity in the songwriting, the album really covers the bases. I Rule
and Pure of Gods
open the album with headbanging flair and adrenaline. It then makes way to a slower, moodier number in Ride of the Last Day
which clocks in as the longest song on the album. Follow the Blind
and Undead Son
follow in the vein of the album openers as more fast-paced, metal anthems. Of Time and Dust
is another of the slower songs, approaching something like a ballad. Itís followed up by a mid-tempo rocker, From the Void
, which pulls the slack back up very gradually and masterfully. Convulsions
continues the ascent into aggression and speed as well as some of the albumís best keyboard textures. From the Shadows
has a rather surprising guitar intro that takes you off-guard before kicking into a very frenetically energetic metal anthem that includes a keyboard solo. The album closes with Marco showing off his classical guitar skills in Painless
which ends the album on a sort of cool down period that also leaves inklings of anxiety behind.
Put together, Suffer Our Pleasures is an album that grabs the listener by the throat and doesnít relinquish the grip for an instant. The band cover as much musical ground as they possibly can in 10 tracks, and do a superb job of it. From the pulse-pounding intensity of Follow the Blind
to the dreary melodrama of Of Time and Dust
, every track on the album delivers something new and powerful.
As Iíve said, Tarot is a band that emphasizes quality over quantity. Though fans do wish there could be more albums like this, weíre willing to accept that you canít rush genius work like this.