Review Summary: Hollow Realm does not intend to be your soundtrack to a sunny day
When frenetic, soaring, and energetic post rock comes to mind, the names And So I Watch You From Afar, Adebisi Shank, and Maybeshewill are rightly at the forefront. Hereford 6-piece Talons have managed to slip largely under the radar, despite a fairly frantic touring schedule since their inception in 2008. With the release of their second full length ‘Hollow Realm’ however, Talons have proved that they are not only worthy of your time and attention, but that they deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as the aforementioned heavyweights. Talons are a band that will no longer be ignored.
The mood of the album can largely be determined by the album artwork. A deserted room and the scene of a failed party conjures images of dashed hopes and broken dreams; a commiseration in place of a celebration. A sense of grand disappointment is evoked, one which most of us will have experienced at least once in our lives, and as a result is a concept which can easily be related to. It is upon this premise that Talons have built ‘Hollow Realm’; and it is fundamental to the cohesion of the album, and ultimately its success.
Chaotic yet controlled, morose yet oddly enchanting, Talons offer little hope or light at the end of the tunnel. They do however, offer fleeting moments of beauty throughout; namely the mid section of ‘In the Shadows...’ and the penultimate track ‘Great Railroads’. For the most part however, dark and dreary scenes dominate. ‘Iris’ epitomises ‘Hollow Realm’ by resonating pure despair throughout, and is the best example of the band showcasing their talents.
The two violinists in Talons; Reuben Brunt and Sam Little, are omnipresent throughout ‘Hollow Realm’, and are pivotal in creating the disillusioned atmosphere that accompanies the listener throughout the entire record. Whether they are setting the tone for the barrage to come (‘Peter Pan’), or providing eerie backdrops for the rest of the band to build upon (‘In the Shadows...’), they succeed readily. Their frenzied activity on opening track, ‘St Mary Will Be the Death of Us All’, allows the crunching riffs in the latter section to sound positively deranged, harking back to the negative scenes painted by a certain ‘Godspeed You! Black Emperor’.
The mood wavers slightly as ‘Hollow Crown’ reaches its climax, as ‘Impala’ and ‘Great Railroads’ both offer the slimmest glint of light at the end of a particularly dreary tunnel. This brief respite however, is exactly that, brief. No sooner has the almost optimistic ‘Great Railroads’ finished, the ten minute album closer ‘Hollow Depth’ snatches all chances of hope away and returns to the sounds of anguish experienced throughout.
So what stops ‘Hollow Crown’ from becoming a masterpiece? The aforementioned album closers, ‘Great Railroads’ and ‘Hollow Depth’ do. The former is ended abruptly even though it shows signs of developing into one of the best on the album, whilst the latter demonstrates how far Talons have to go before they can conquer a ten minute epic. Instead of building to a spectacular crescendo worthy of closing out ‘Hollow Crown’, ‘Hollow Depth’ frustrates with its stop-start formula and jittery, unpredictable song structure. By the end of ‘Hollow Depth’, a sense of relief is felt rather than a sense of awe, as the album closer affords very little justice to the brilliance that has preceded it.
Talons are a band of great promise, and although ‘Hollow Realm’ is not the masterpiece it could have been, it is a truly excellent release by a band that is more than worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as the heavyweights of the post rock world.