There’s no getting around it: math-rock, as a sub-genre, sounds really, really boring. Yes, Battles were a blast live (are they ever coming back?), and Foals – reluctantly categorised as such though they were – brought a smile to some seriously serious music. But on paper, it reads as a fun-free zone; probably the work of men with stubble in scruffy t-shirts bearing the names of bands nobody outside a circle of two-dozen has heard of.
Talons are, on paper, math-rockers. On paper to the extent that this debut album’s accompanying information calls them just that. But it only takes a few minutes of opener St Mary Will Be the Death of Us All for expectations of a cold, calculated listen to be cast aside. Hollow Realm was produced by former ¡Forward, Russia! frontman Tom Woodhead, and boy has he brought some of his ex-band’s energy to the studio – these instrumentals flex some sizeable muscles, intricacies dancing prettily on several occasions but never without the threat of being crushed by tremendous percussion and rollicking riffs. Think less Rodan, more Russian Circles – cleverness as caustic cacophony, to sweat along with rather than stroke a beard to.
Nutshell summarisation: this is a far louder affair than fans of the Hereford sextet’s previous, under-the-radar work will be used to. And subsequently it’s a lot more direct, the higher volume throughout ensuring attentions do not wander during the passages of relative calm. Take the pause towards the end of Peter Pan as an example: it precedes a truly ear-bleeding explosion of noise. Granted, the signposts are all present and correct, instances of stillness sure-fire indicators of something rather more bombastic just around the bend; but Talons have their execution nailed, their songcraft tight. They take a formula attempted by many to an unusually singular zenith, partially courtesy of complementary violin work that’d leave Vanessa-Mae requiring stitches.
That they’ve previously released a split-single with Belfast rabble-rousers And So I Watch You From Afar should be indication enough that this is math rock with the fieriest of hearts, its makers possessing the ability to carve mosh-along anthems from classical templates. And if not, just a single listen to this wholly riveting set will put any dismissive pre-conceptions straight. Just like the claws that provide the band with their name, these are compositions of sharp edge which will carve into the senses like bear traps around wayward ankles.
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