While everyone knows about the Finnish power metal act Tarot, you may not have heard of the German act, which actually predates the Finns by a number of years. But the Finns stayed together and the Germans did not, for reasons I am unaware of. Tarot Beyond is a collection of demos, live recordings and other clippings that show what the band might have been. Or rather, what they plan to do with their reunited lineup. Ah… tricked ya, didn’t I? At any rate, the band have just recorded a new album called Edge Of Heaven under the banner Tarot Beyond. So what did they have to offer here? Well, quite a bit as this compilation shows. If you enjoy slightly progressive NWOBHM acts like mid-to current Iron Maiden, then you’ll definitely find something to like.
Their original drummer Martin Breittenbach is no longer with us, but guitarists Marc Papanastasiou and Nils Brandt as well as frontman Harry Amthor are very much alive. Bassist Martin Böttcher is additionally still among the living as well, his thick presence definitely felt on the album. Despite it’s thick edge, the band are wholly elegant, with several powerful compositions largely inspired by their peers in Maiden, and possibly even The Scorpions with the chorus number on “Sail Away.” Amthor doesn’t try to be Dickinson either, carrying a more straight-forward vocal approach to accent their dual axe onslaught. Tarot Beyond are the product created from perfect chemistry between two guitarists, most of what you’ll hear on their demos. There are some wonderfully remastered live cuts here too, which although recorded in ’91, don’t sound like they were recorded with terrible quality as I hear with other live bonus numbers from various bands. I can actually discern the guitars, drums and vocal aesthetics as clearly as if they had recorded them in the studio. That I would consider a plus, even if “Gimme A T” and “Radio Spot” were a little unnecessary.
Even though “Edge Of Heaven” is the title of their forthcoming, the band decided to throw the live version of that one on here along with their live classical guitar instrumental “Rondo Alla Turca” a cover of Mozart. Oddly, the live cuts are placed in the middle of the demo tracks, which I felt was a little weird, though there may be a chronological reason for that. Equally surprising, is the remastering job on the demos. Demos by nature, are not supposed to have the highest amount of clarity – but thanks to modern techology, these do. There are still some obvious raw areas, but far less fuzz than you might expect. After all, material like this is the kind that should receive a proper mastering job, rather than a disc that was recorded in a high grade studio with a million dollar production job from the beginning. Albums like that have always sounded good. It’s the bands that didn’t have access to this kind of studio equipment that need the help now. I can definitely say that the material here has been perfectly preserved and should sound even better on this disc than it did decades ago on demo tapes. After all, that’s why we remaster things.
While I don’t know how the new incarnation of Tarot Beyond will sound, I can only hope that this disc is used as a rubric for that sound. Tarot or Tarot Beyond definitely could have held their weight in a scene that was quickly populated by an onslaught of NWOBHM flavored acts, and hopefully their new tunes will come off as equally memorable as the pieces I’ve heard here. These Germans definitely had promise back then, but can they shine as brightly today? Time will tell.
(15 Tracks, 53:00)