TARTAROS - The Red Jewel (NECROPOLIS - CD 1999)
In the past few months most of the stuff, which I have listened to was obscure and usually old school death or black metal, so yesterday I thought “OK, maybe it is about time to listen to something different, maybe something what I haven’t listened to for years...”. Personally I am quite open minded metal maniac, I think, I have many different styles of this music in my collection, obviously death and black are in advantage, but there’re also some other types of metal, which I like and listen to; for example I have nothing against listening to something like Bestial Raids and then Opeth the same day. And something called symphonic black metal is also among the styles, which I like. I am not maybe the greatest fan of this style, not every band which plays it can interest me, quite often such bands would rather irritate me (for many reasons: too soft or too poppy music or maybe because of the hilarious image like in Ancient or The Kovenant…), but certainly there are some hordes, which I just like. Let’s see: Limbonic Art (masters and one of my favourite bands ever!!!!!!), Morgul, Diabolical Masquerade, Obtained Enslavement, Troll, Covenant, Arcturus, there are even some Dimmu Borgir LPs, which I like… So, definitely this style of music has a lot to offer. So, yesterday I picked up an album from another such project, one which I haven’t listened to for years and which seems to be quite forgotten nowadays, so that’s a good reason to remind it to you… Here is Tartaros from Norway. I do realize that this band and its leader Charmand Grimloch may be known mainly because he’s been a live member of Emperor for many years, playing keyboards for them for few years. But I sincerely advise you to listen to Tartaros for its musical value, as I dare to say that if you’re into the bands, which I mentioned above and want to hear one of the best symphonic black metal releases from Norway from the 90’s, then “The Red Jewel” is one for you.
I haven’t listened to for years and at the moment I also don’t own Tartaros’ debut CD “The Grand Psychotic Castle”, so I won’t be comparing “The Red Jewel” to it. But it is a shame that none of these two albums is not available anymore, as I think this band deserves way more recognition. Let me be honest: “The Red Jewel” is just an excellent CD. Musically I think it is quite close to Morgul, early Covenant, Arcturus, but at the same time Grimloch had enough ideas to have his own identity. I love the atmosphere of his music and that sort of cosmic sound of the keyboards. It sometimes sounds close to “Aspera Hiems Symfonia”, but Tartaros feels to be faster and darker, not as theatrical and not as epic. Morgul comparisons or those to the early Covenant (especially in “Into the Faculty of Wonderful Secrets”) have a lot of sense as well, as all these bands seem to have similar attitude and songwriting style.
When describing the music on “The Red Jewel” I guess I should start with the keyboards. Their orchestral parts are very important to the music of Tartaros and Grimloch arranged them in very impressive and extravagant way. Each song is richly arranged with this instrument, but at the same time the keyboards haven’t been emphasized, but they’re sometimes almost hidden behind the guitars, which was a very good decision in my opinion – this way they’re not so dominant, but at the same time they play equally important role to the guitars (the only failure of the mixing is slightly silent sound of the drumming – in this case it is drum machine, but it could have been more audible – and almost complete lack of bass). Anyway, I like the production of “The Red Jewel” and such mixing of the music allowed the more metal and uncompromising side of Tartaros be audible and you can truly feel it, when the music speeds up to become more furious, dynamic and aggressive. It never feels too soft; it luckily never also feels like “sweet and too easily listenable”, which is a great advantage of “The Red Jewel”. If you listen to those harsh vocals of Grimloch (which only sometimes are accompanied by clean, epic singing) you may then realize than even if it is symphonic black metal, the music is still damn freezing cold, evil and utterly dark and is also very dynamic and energetic – something not every band in this style could achieve. And more so, not a single song or even not a single moment of “The Red Jewel” feels to be not good enough. I listen to this album more and more and I just cannot see any minuses in it… it sounds diverse and perfect. “The Ruby Mine”, “The Storm of Terror” (which is the most uncompromising and furious song from the album), “In the Intense Domain of Grievousness” (again, mind blowing stuff with crazy speed and ferocity mixed with splendid dark, sinister and sick atmosphere!) and “The 5th and the Hysteric” would be the most memorable and effective songs, but the truth is that the entire album is just stunning and have no weaknesses, each time I listen to it I feel very pleased and excited about it, so I can only strongly recommend you getting such an awesome, but horribly underestimated and unknown, nowadays most likely almost forgotten album.
The whole album was supposed to have a continuation (at least this is what the booklet next to the lyrics to “The 5th and the Hysteric”). Sadly it has been 14 years since the release of “The Red Jewel” and it doesn’t seem like Tartaros will ever be releasing anything else. I have no idea what Grimloch is up to nowadays, maybe he’s not involved in the metal music anymore or maybe he just has been abducted by the Aliens? I haven’t heard about the dude for many years, which is sad. Maybe someone, who reads these words, knows what have happened to him? Please let me know. All in all I strongly recommend you getting this CD. I also have a message to the labels out there: get both Tartaros re-released, both on CD and vinyl, as they do not deserve being covered by the time and dust. This is timeless and excellent music, strongly recommended!
Standout tracks: “The Ruby Mine”, “The Storm of Terror”, “In the Intense Domain of Grievousness”, “The 5th and the Hysteric”
Final rate: 90/100