Talons – Hollow Realm (album)

Talons - Hollow Realm coverReleased in the UK by Big Scary Monsters last November, and in the US by Topshelf Records in January, Hollow Realm is the debut album from the Hereford sextet Talons. You may remember Hereford from, er, the Pretenders and Mott the Hoople. I’m pleased to say that things have moved on a little since then.

Hollow Realm is, in fact, a superb album. There you go, that’s your review.

You want more? You’ll be the death of me. Okay, Talons by instrumental post-rock, an increasingly saturated genre in these times when highly competent musicians are ten a penny. It takes quite a lot of work to stand but they manage it through a combination of skilful songwriting, raw talent, and an instrumental lineup including a pair of violins that sets them apart from the legions of bands sticking with the traditional rock setup of two guitars / one bass / one drummer setup.

Lead track ‘St. Mary Will Be The Death Of Us All’ sees Talons putting their best foot forward. It’s immediately apparent that the band has not taken a wildly different path to that trodden in their previous work (a collection of EPs, singles, splits and compilation tracks best located via the Commemorations roundup LP). However, it is an altogether more confident affair, with quick, sharp guitar lead darting back and forth around a pacey, rolling drum rhythm, and the violins providing much of the song’s textural, emotional resonance. Here and there the song pulls back from its more sweeping moments to deliver quick rocky blasts. This is decidedly not post-rock of the ponderous ilk: deliberate, yes, but with an urgency and pace that would feel like restlessness were it not so insistent.

‘Peter Pan’ ups the aggression quotient a tad – it’s a shorter and thus more immediate affair – particularly with the trem and quick scream in the bridge (a rare moment of vocal input). This is followed by ‘In the Shadows of Our Stilted Homes’, which opens with slow and relaxing sweeps of the violin bows but soon kicks in with an upbeat, driving drum rhythm and guitars pursuing respectively crunchy and delayed territory. There are moments which remind of one of the other finest instrumental post-rock bands of the British Isles, As I Watch You From Afar, but the detail underpinning such comparisons is fleeting. Both bands are defiantly individual.

Some of the songs on Hollow Realm manage to evoke a specific mood or theme. Take ‘Impala’, which in its second half evolves into an unexpectedly jaunty tune which together with the title reminds of nothing so much as a deer running and hopping frantically about. Or ‘Great Railroads’, an uncharacteristically short tune (only ‘An Expected Future’ is shorter, essentially a bridge for the album built around a rising martial drumbeat) that – if you’ll forgive me putting my wank hat on – genuinely manages to evoke not only the sense of a steam engine slowly gathering pace as its furnaces are stoked, but also the epic scale, triumph and tragedy that defined the construction of history’s great railroads.

Critical pretention aside Hollow Realm is a fine album, and one that belongs on not only every post-rock lover’s shelves but also on those of everyone who believes in the power of instrumental music to evoke senses of place, powerful emotional responses or indeed simply to dwell in the moment to moment of brilliantly written music.

Wank hat off: don’t miss this fucking record.

Official SiteMySpace | Big Scary Monsters | T0pshelf Records

2 Responses to “Talons – Hollow Realm (album)”
  1. Saw these guys play live last week (or maybe week before, I’ve lost track of time a bit); excellent stuff, the four layers of strings really bring the richness.

    Also: you’ve really found your reviewing voice, haven’t you? :)

  2. Shaun CG says:

    To my shame I’ve missed every opportunity to see them live, despite their having played Brighton 2 or 3 times (at least) in the last few years.

    And thanks, man! That means a lot coming from you. :)

    Still learning and practising, but do think I’m getting better so it’s good to hear it’s not just me…