Indulge me for a moment before I get to the actual review of this CD. To see where I'm coming from, you have to take into account the history of the band--full disclosure, Tantric was one of my favorite bands pretty much from the time they came out, and it was disappointing that there was such a lull between releases. Once upon a time, there were three guys rounding out a band called Days of the New, who quit or were fired depending on the story you hear. What else was there to do besides grab a vocalist and create a new band? Get a platinum record? Awesome. Record a follow-up that gets depressingly little attention? Well, there's only so much you can do when your label doesn't do much for you. Record a third CD... wait, here's where things go downhill. Instead of getting to release the CD, you have issues with your label, which is also having legal issues of its own. The three who were originally members of Days of the New individually left the band for varying reasons, leaving vocalist Hugo Ferreira to figure out what to do. The solution: hire a new band and, by and large, record a whole new CD rather than releasing a CD full of songs written with departed members.
So that brings us to The End Begins, the long-awaited third album from Tantric. Unfortunately, starting with a whole new set of instrumentalists almost means starting a whole new band. The CD ultimately turned out to be about half songs that sound legitimately like Tantric, and half that sound like a band trying their best to cop Tantric's style. Hugo's unmistakable voice is the strongest tie between the sounds, and some of the vocal harmonies sound pretty much the same as the original incarnation of the band. Some of the riffs are straight out of the old books too--ballads "Wishing" and "Something Better" would fit perfectly alongside early hit "Mourning," and the acoustic riff on "Why Don't You" is the high point of tying back to the roots in what amounted to acoustic post-grunge/alternative metal. "The One," the one song salvaged and reworked from the original sessions, is a reasonable evolution from some of the material they worked out on sophomore CD After We Go. Opening track "Regret" struck me as mediocre when I first listened to it, but has slowly grown on me. (Side note: "thanks" so much to the PR guy for providing me a CD with censored versions of "The One" and "Monopoly." For that matter, also, thanks for a copy with no liner notes or cover art, leaving me to scrounge on Wikipedia.)
The newer-sounding material is rather hit-or-miss. "Down and Out" particularly showcases the biggest evolution with the new lineup, the addition of permanent electric violinist Marcus Ratzenboeck. The song kicks off with as heavy a violin riff as he could pull off, which works pretty well once joined by the distorted guitars duplicating the riff a few octaves below. "Love Song" is catchy and a bit comical ("I know it's like I'm bitter, I don't give a s***/I hope you're really happy and you choke on it"), but ironic in that the chorus insists he never wants to hear another love song but is followed by the love ballad "Wishing." "Lucky One" has a decent guitar riff, but the processed violin unfortunately sounds a bit too much like Nintendo music. "Monopoly," a song most likely about frustration with the record industry (as far as I can tell), also has a decent guitar riff and a ridiculously catchy chorus, but sounds like some more time could've been spent with getting the violin sounds right. Closing track "Lay" unfortunately sounds like it was put together quickly and thrown on to add some length the CD, unlike previous album closers "Inside Your Head" and "Awake" which were both, in my opinion, as strong as anything else on their respective albums.
The end result is unfortunately somewhat of a middling CD, at least compared to what I (and I think a lot of Tantric fans, probably) was waiting for. It's also amusing to me that a lot of the better songs are stacked toward the second half of the CD, whereas if anything you would expect the strong songs to kick off the album and the filler to be at the end. Maybe in the iTunes era this is less true, who knows. Tantric completists will probably be picking this up on release date, and that's a reasonable thing to do--there's enough material here to keep you happy, and maybe provides a stepping stone to see what Hugo will do with his new crew. To be fair, most modern rock fans should dig this, too; even with the weaker songs floating around on this disc, it's hard not to recommend someone to pick it up for at least a couple listens. If this had been released under a different band name, I might have different feelings about the CD. Such as it is, though, I don't think this will be considered the high point of the Tantric catalog.
CD Info and Links
Tantric - The End Begins