Big Scary Monster Records
I can’t say I’ve ever been much for purely instrumental bands. Lyrics just add so much purpose and personality – without them, something feels astray. That being said, instruments play a commanding part of any sonic experience (well duh), and if led by the right team, develop a voice of their own. In this regard, Hereford, England’s Talons do a respectable job of communicating personality and narrative through instruments alone. I should mention that I can’t claim too much familiarity with comparable bands since I tend to focus on those with vocal chords, so bare with me if I miss any obvious references.
Talon’s first full length, Hollow Realm, features the strikingly vacant imagery of a washed out concrete bunker overrun by a jubilant pallet of balloons. In many ways the stark contrast is indicative of the album’s heightened emotional focus. For a band without a voice, Talons boasts a whopping six members, Oliver Steels and Sam Jarvis share guitar duties, Rueben Brunt and Sam Little making things interesting on the strings with their double dose of violins, and bassist Chris Hicks and drummer Alex MacDougal rounding out the ensemble. Together they work towards a cinematic experience more than a traditional album, developing mood and atmosphere across eight sweeping tracks.
Like any great symphony, Hollow Realm peppers hints of that which follows across a suggestive prelude. The track, much like the album, develops around a striking contrast between whimsy blissfulness and foreboding anger. The urgency of Steels and Jarvis’ strokes makes for parallels with Emmanuel & The Fear, conjuring thoughts of plummeting powerlessly down the rabbit hole to a fate of complete mystery. From here the band loosely establishes a plot structure. “Peter Pan” comes filled with foreshadowing of looming danger. Like a town oblivious to an impending siege, the track flirts between the perspective of ignorant naivety and the murderous advance of looming danger.
In textbook fashion, the next few songs serve as the “rising action” leading into the climax. In particular, the twisted chords on “The Shadows Of Our Stilted Homes” make for a mangled morally corrupt imagery. I was reminded of the Sauron’s gathering orc hoards in Lord Of The Rings as they march out to bring death and destruction upon the land. But there’s also a sense of scheming, like a chess player planning victory with devious foresight. “An Expected Future Event” and “Iris” swap perspectives, entering the twilight of safety for those in looming peril. The chapter starts with a hint of unrest, building first into sadness and then anxious anticipation. The track’s final moments feel akin the last panic stricken moments of searching for an umbrella upon seeing a tidal wave. Reality is imminent, looming, and inevitable.
For the finale, the Hollow Realm plays out an intense climax and deep sense of resolution. Much like the human condition, nothing is simple, and what seems like a victory only regresses into chaos several times over before finding resolution. But even then, tracks like “Great Railroads” evoke a deep sense of mourning and grief.
Without a narrator, Hollow Realm could be about any number of scenarios, so my descriptions are dependent on my own experience. Naturally, each listener will likely view the album through their own experience, making the album durable and approachable for wide audience. Talons could easily fit alongside many of Deep Elm Records instrumental offerings (ie. Moonlit Sailor) as their more cinematic counterpart. Hollow Realm isn’t something I see myself listening to frequently, but like a good movie, the pacing was dynamic and plot came filled with pleasant surprises. Fans of well-composed, symphonic instrumentals should find lots to hold their attention.