Tarantula A.D. : Book of Sand

If Diamond Nights are Kemado’s answer to the void left by sleazy seventies rock, then Tarantula A.D. is their answer to the void left by epic, progressive, classical-tinged metal opuses. And if you understand that statement, then you’re one step ahead of the game. Tarantula A.D. (once without the suffix) is a mostly instrumental band from New York who dress like centurions (at least in their press photos and on the album cover) and rock the fine art like Wolfgang Mozart. Using cellos and violins as well as electric guitars and thumping drums, Tarantula A.D. can put on a soft and mellow air and then turn around and put on a show better than Spinal Tap’s “Stonehenge.” One thing’s for sure, the band changes it up enough just in one album to keep listeners interested.

Book of Sand, the somewhat epic novel without words, or a soundtrack to a David Lean epic starring Ronnie James Dio, kicks off with the first of the three legs of the tripod that hold the album together thematically, “The Century Trilogy I: Conquest.” The second part comes half way through the album, subtitled “Empire” and the third at the close called “The Fall.” Each goes from crunching metal guitars to ethereal strings in heartbeats, lulling and shocking with each alternating stanza. “Who Took Berlin (Part 1)” and its sequel which immediately follows, are like Radiohead’s “Street Spirit” blending with the Beatles’ “She’s So Heavy.” In essence, intense.

“Sealake” is one of the few songs with vocals featuring Sierra Cassidy of CocoRosie, and the song itself sounds like a Sigur Rós-like soundscape complete with castrati wanderings. “The Lost Waltz” is actually that, a lovely waltz on piano that then progresses into avant garde classical mastery which shows that you really can have the art with art rock. “Palo Borracho” is one hell of a Spanish classical guitar piece. By this time you might be thinking that all of these lines could have come out of different reviews. Spinal Tap? Classical guitar? Waltzes? Yet this is all one album’s worth of material, surely all over the board, but with all the artistry of Tarantula A.D., a hell of a band but a marketer’s nightmare.

The album closes with the third part of the trilogy called “The Fall,” with guest vocals by none other than Devendra Banhart. His warbly tones fit perfectly within the experimental framework of the band, making one wonder what a whole album with the two of them would be like. Tarantula A.D. is going to be difficult to pin down for most. Their switches from classical to metal can confound, but make for some of the most entertaining mixtures in modern music. They jam without getting too spacey or “prog,” play classically without getting too artsy, and tie it all together seamlessly. It may not be tailor made for the radio, but it would fit right in with a battlefield tent.

Similar Albums:
And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead… – Source Tags and Codes
Animal Collective – Sung Tongs
Sigur Rós – Von

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