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Pompous prog-metal

Tarantula A.D. - Book of Sand
(Kemado Records)
1 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Dec. 1, 2005
Tarantula A.D.

Review by Tony Bonyata

In a world where it feels as if every possibility of rock has been exhausted comes along Tarantula A.D., a unique, if not altogether odd trio of classically trained rock musicians.
What makes this New York threesome (Danny Bensi, Saunder Jurrians and Gregory Roqove) and their full-length debut Book of Sand so different than anything else is that they incorporate two strange musical bedfellows - heavy metal and classical music. While many of the songs on this concept album feature intricate and complex classical arrangements that incorporate cello as an integral instrument into this small rock outfit, at the same time a stalking, slasher guitar, odd and aggressive time signatures and foreboding minor keys mutate the band's classical tendencies into dark, progressive heavy-metal.
The tone of this undertaking is immediately set on the opening track "The Century Trilogy I: Conquest," a song which trades off whispering passages of cello with pillaging rock bursts - drawing one band to mind, Lark's Tongues in Aspic-era King Crimson. From there the trio plunge into nine more heady arrangements that, while often grand in scope, lack enough body to sustain any repeat performances. While there are limited vocals occasionally peppered throughout the album, they are instead used more as augmenting instruments, best witnessed on the closing track "The Century Trilogy III: The Fall," which incorporates a whirling dervish female vocal incanting odd warblings as if Yoko Ono had been raised in India instead of Japan.
The main problem that Tarantula A.D. faces with their unorthodox music is finding a proper fan base. Their metal tendencies are neither immediate or base enough to hammer through the craniums of hardcore headbangers, and their dramatic classical leanings are too heavy-handed, unrefined and morose for fans of Bach and Mozart.
There may be some hipsters (no doubt fans of The Mars Volta) out there that may proclaim this as "the new thing," but, if you ask me, this stuff is just pompous, ponderous prog-metal cloaked in an artist's smock and conductor's baton.

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