When I hear the name “Tarantula A.D.,” I expect to hear metal. Menacing, brutal, dirty, gut-wrenching metal. Maybe it’s the imagery of a big, nasty arachnid. Maybe it reminds me of Sepultura’s Chaos A.D.. A little bit of both, perhaps. But I certainly don’t expect to hear moody gypsy folk. And yet, when I listen to Tarantula A.D.’s Atlantic, that’s exactly what I get. Well that mixed with heavy, powerful rock a la Mogwai.
If you think I’m disappointed, think again. I actually find Atlantic to be quite a compelling listen. Like Tin Hat Trio jamming with the aforementioned Mogwai, or perhaps even Sepultura providing an instrumental backing for The Dirty Three’s impassioned violin post-rock, Tarantula A.D. combine the loud and brutal with the eerie and old-fashioned for something that’s pretty out there, but not in the least bit difficult to enjoy.
Opener “Grazie Signore” opens with a subtle violin melody, like the theme to some neo-realist film shot in the Old Country, whichever one that is. In this case, I’d bet Romania. However, T.A.D. happens to be from New York, which explains the modern, or post-modern, touch they add by throwing in some chaotic metal guitars. But unlike Slayer, the guitarist in Tarantula doesn’t shred or wail on some crazy riffage. He just plays a couple earth shattering chords. That’s all he needs to do, really.
But the metal parts come and go. The haunting string folk is constant. In “Atlantic,” the volume is turned down in favor of a spookier take. And on “France Atlantic,” the group even adds some frightening but unintelligible female vocals with just the right amount of reverb and operatics to make you think it’s actually coming from beyond the grave.
As it turns out, there really was a metal band from Portugal called Tarantula. So my assumption isn’t completely unfounded. It’s just a little silly. What T.A.D. have created on Atlantic is far more beautiful and palatable. Even if it is a little creepy.
Tin Hat Trio – Book of Silk
Dirty Three – Horse Stories
Mogwai – Rock Action
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.