So this new Tantal album came my way and as I always like to do before I embark on a review, I read what the label/promotions agency have to say about the band. What instantly intrigued (and amused) me about it is that the comparisons in that info covered all bases possible! It was almost like it should have said “OK, you tell me – what bands do YOU think Tantal might sound like? Yes, they sound like all of them! Anyone else? Yes, them too…go one, name a band, I dare you…”. I kid you not, they are being likened to Katatonia, Anathema, Death, Meg Myers, Redemption, Wolverine, Dream Theater, Symphony X, Fates Warning, Iron Maiden, Lacuna Coil, Into Eternity… I mean, come on, spread the net wider why don’t you? So I played the album and the thing is…well…they’re right! They really DO have elements of all those bands!

The two names I missed off the end of that proffered list were Echoes Of Eternity and To-Mera. I kept these names back because these bands weren’t exactly huge in their era or particularly recent, but anyone who heard these bands at the time will know exactly where Tantal are coming from (anyone who doesn’t know those two bands can choose from the extensive list provided earlier!). Amaran and Without Face are another two imaginative bands from that turn-of-the-millennium kind of time-frame that I also hear as Tantal’s third offering “Ruin” burrows it’s way forcefully into my head, full to the brim of Progressive, Melodic Death, Gothic and Alternative Metal.

There’s darkness here, there’s abundant heaviness, groove and also speed when needed. Tantal are progressive and although we’re not talking jazz-fusion here, they are still not ready to be easily categorized as every track on the first half of the album twists and dodges, throwing curve balls, trying different things, keeping the listener guessing, whilst always maintaining that dynamic heaviness. Yet there’s respite – the more accessible ‘Love’ and ‘Tears of Yesterday’ remain bleak at heart, but give the fabulous vocal talents of Sofia Raykova even more room to shine. Indeed, the semi-acoustic, partially orchestrated closing track ‘The Awakening’ means the album actually takes you on a journey – all fire and brimstone to start with, chopping and changing, then culminating in the album’s more instant and melancholic offerings to end proceedings (the title track being the fourth member of this closing quartet). The band have chosen to show their different sides as a complete album rather than squeezed into one track, which is admirable.

Don’t expect Within Temptation-style epic choruses, this is an album full of complex, powerful Metal tracks, not designed for initial immediacy, but still full of impact – repeated listens will be rewarded. Having a female lead vocal can be a much more interesting, varied and versatile way of capturing the songs a band writes, more than a male singer a lot of the time and Tantal as a unit are very aware of this. Yet, as was the case with those braver, pioneering (and sometimes forgotten) female-fronted bands they remind me so fondly of, they may struggle to find like-minded acts to tour with and bills to play on – but this is a different time and a scene with a different attitude, so maybe perseverance might just pay off for this obviously talented Russian band.

(8/10 Andy Barker)