I was with a 'friend' at a gig once. The band playing was Gallops, who are an instrumental band. After the gig, my 'friend' approached the drummer of Gallops, expressing his enjoyment of their performance, but also suggesting, in all of his arrogant and moronic wisdom, that they might be better with a vocalist. Not only was he incredibly rude, but he was completely wrong and, thankfully, the band didn't heed his advice.

Rather than genuinely thinking Gallops music would be better with a vocalist, I believe he simply thought instrumental music as a whole could be improved with some much-needed vocals. I disagree strongly. There are many things I like about instrumental music, and I think one of the key things is that, much like modern art, it is completely up to the individual to decide what each song may be about (whereas lyrics may take away or at least restrict the choice of the individual in this sense). Songs, and indeed abstract art, for example, may evoke a number of different feelings and emotions depending upon how the individual interprets certain things.

Talons' debut, for me, certainly contains (and evokes) a number of different emotions though like abstract art, again, how the album is perceived will be down to the individual, and this is something that I like.

Opening cautiously to a fuzz of feedback, 'St. Mary Will Be The Death Of Us All' soon turns dark, angry, dramatic and frantic. Fast-paced technical guitar work sits side by side, violin screeches, drums all full of fast-paced rolls and cymbal crashes builds, breakdowns, and repeats for six minutes. 'Peter Pan' continues where the album opener left off. Straight into heavy guitar riffs and crying violin, it could easily be the soundtrack to an Attenborough documentary during a chase scene, stumbles, near-misses, fear, panic. A mid-song breakdown is tense yet fairly calm, the song, orchestrated by the drums, slowly builds to an epic crescendo and sudden ending; a deadly silence. 'An Expected Future Event' sees a short-lived step away from the anger, with slow, buzzing remorseful guitar, and violin and militaristic drumming bringing visions of death and mourning. Iris hears menacingly finger-plucked violin strings whilst other violin eerily squeals in the background, drums again the orchestrator building in volume. Like many of the tracks, it slowly builds creating an expectation for heavy guitar to kick in, which it soon does in satisfying manner.

Eight tracks of technically-played instrumental rock could easily turn into "Hey! Look what we can do with our instruments!" but, although the musicianship on display is certainly impressive, Talons avoid this - perhaps because of the described passion and emotion felt throughout the release. The band's focus always seems to be on the feel of song as a whole, rather than tracks ever being dominated by one sequence that one of the guitarist's was especially proud of himself for, for instance.

Songs, largely, are well layered and put together, as is Hollow Realm as a whole. Each song leads naturally onto the next, and the album works in its entirety as well as on an individual track basis. At times, things can be a little overly stop-start (perhaps caused by the evident math-rock influences), and this leads to some songs losing any momentum that it had built up in the seconds before, and on occasion songs can feel a little samey, but Hollow Realm is largely a well-constructed fusion of post-rock, metal, and math-rock, and a very strong debut album.

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