Review: TAO – Prophecy
Tarot Label Media (October 15th 2021)
Reviewer: Jason Hopper
British melodic hard rock band TAO have arrived and released their debut album ‘Prophecy’. The band has some things in common with another melodic rock band, Adrenaline Rush. Both singers (Karen Fell and Tave Wanning, respectively) sound similar and both had albums written and produced by singers famous in other bands. Erik Martensson (Eclipse) wrote and produced Adrenaline Rush’s debut album and Gary Hughes (Ten) wrote and produced TAO’s debut. It is difficult to rate a band on their merits without referencing the heavy involvement of Gary Hughes. Will it sound like old-school Ten, modern Ten, or something else entirely.
What you have here is a mix of all three. There are tracks on here that sound like unused Ten tracks. The issue for me is I used to love Ten, but they have not been the same since guitarist Vinny Burns left. While there are some great songs here, there are a bunch that leave me cold, just like modern day Ten. I know it sounds like I’m comparing this band to Ten way too much and not letting the band stand on it’s own, but it’s just too hard to ignore. For better or worse, this sounds mostly like what a Ten album would sound.
The album opens with first single ‘Nobody But You’ and is hands down the best song on the album, very representative of the Ten of the past, even utilizing the talk box effect like Ten did on the track ‘After The Love Has Gone’. I said before Karen Fell sounds similar to Tave Wanning, but there’s a little bit of Chez Kane here as well. An upbeat track with a catchy sing-along chorus that hits all the right melodic beats. Great stuff!
There are other tracks that are also highlights. ‘Might Just Break Your Heart’ is a solid mid-tempo ballad. The keyboards provided by Ten’s Darrel Treece-Birch, the background vocals in the chorus, and the guitar solo outro make this song a winner. ‘Fight Club’ and ‘Nazarene’ are two songs that actually don’t have a Ten vibe to them and show off what the band would sound like away from the shadow of Mr. Hughes. The band does a solid job with both rockers. There are two versions of ballad ‘Angels and Clandestine Fools’. Of those, I prefer the simple version of vocals and keyboards over the full band version. Karen Fell’s vocals have more impact and make the song more soulful.
That covers about half of the album. The other half is not terribly exciting and rather flat. I stated previously I am not a fan of Ten’s output over the last 18 years. ‘Rock Brigade’, ‘Breathe In Breathe Out‘, and the title track all sound like songs that have been perviously performed by Ten back when their ideas were original. Now they just sound stale.
So what we have here is half an album of good to great songs and half that left me indifferent. If you’re a fan of all of Ten’s albums, then this is a definite purchase. For everyone else, I would suggest you check out the songs online and cherry pick the ones you like. There’s certainly some keepers here. I just wish it had been a whole album’s worth. It will be interesting to see where the band go from here if they choose to break away and write their own material.