It was only recently that I’d heard of these guys. Bits and pieces of Black Talon gradually started making their way into my social media feeds and then when I heard that they were supporting Flotsam and Jetsam in Glasgow tonight I just had to check them out. How could I have not known about Black Talon before? For starters they’re a thrash metal band from just up the road in Edinburgh which is reason enough for me to give them a shot – it’s shameful that I didn’t know about them before! Then recently at Moshville Towers their debut album Endless Realities found it’s way into our review pile so the opportunity arose to truly see what Black Talon have to offer.
Well I’m certainly not disappointed! The album begins with an opening instrumental intro in “Dead Hand” before leading into a storming song with “Era of Suffering”. This song gives a pretty good indication of what Black Talon have to offer with riffs aplenty. The tempo overall is fast and uncompromising and the riffs vary in style utilising a variety of legato techniques through straight-up power chord-based ideas. The vocals go down the more shouted route with hints of melody here and there, backed up by the thrash staple of gang shouts in places. Follow up track “Built to Fail” continues these ideas again, with relentless speed and being overall very catchy. The next song “World’s Apart” slows the pace a touch to a more driving tempo and more simple sliding power chord riffing forming the main structure of the song. Black Talon then return to much speedier territory with “Shadow Science” showcasing more trill/turn legato ideas in the riffing and near blastbeat drums prior to the first verse. “Shadow Science” along with songs like “Era of Suffering” showcase Black Talon’s knack for creating more complex structures in their songwriting beyond the typical rock and pop AABA formula with additional sections all chock full of varying riff styles from the typical thrash method of fast low-pitched power chord ideas to slower ideas, chugging riffs, to higher pitched styles and shredding solos. Despite the deviation from more conventional song structures, Black Talon’s music overall remains in-your-face, catchy and memorable. That can’t be said for a lot of newer thrash metal bands coming out of the woodwork these days in my opinion.
The next track, “Lunatic Fringe”, is notable as the band recently had a video made for the song. It again highlights Black Talon’s ability to create catchy riffs blending simple power-chord bases with added complex ideas here and there. This song is also a great example of the band using varying tempo changes such as the gradual accelerando near the ending. The vocals again in “Lunatic Fringe” highlight the great use of more melodic ideas with the shout-style in the refrain. “(Nothing is) All You’ll Ever Be” continues the momentum with its driving pace and varied riffing in addition to the catchy melodic refrain. The mid section picks up the pace and changes style to showcase a more frantic alternate picked pedal-tone riff idea with added guitar harmony above the original riff. The soloing further showcases the guitar player’s immense shredding ability utilising swift sweep-picking techniques before an expert slowing-down transition back into the chorus.
After listening to the majority of Endless Realities you can get a good feel of the Black Talon’s myriad of influences. There’s hints of Exodus-style crunch and aggression, Coroner-style legato wizardry, Testament-style melody and technicality. I’m also hearing hints of Forbidden and Vio-lence in Black Talon’s sound not only in the riffing and structures, but particularly in the vocals. Thr frontman has a style reminiscent of a lower pitched Sean Killian (Vio-lence) and Russ Anderson (Forbidden) hybrid with his mix shouted and sing styles. It’s clear there’s a large variety of influences that goes into Black Talon’s overall sound ranging from a mix of melodic, technical and simple thrash stylings old and new. However Black Talon still have something about them which sounds ultimately “them” thus separating from the pack of identikit modern thrash which has been saturating the scene since I got into the genre round about the time of the resurgence in 2007. On a more patriotic note, it makes me proud to know that Black Talon are from Scotland – I finally feel we have a band with the songwriting prowess to compete on the international stage and their history of support slots with many notable thrash bands (including Warbringer, Onslaught, Skeletonwitch and of course tonight adding Flotsam and Jetsam to the list) also shows that fact.
The penultimate two tracks “Soul Denied” and “Justify Yourself” present much of the same as the rest of the album but it’s the closing number, “Obey”, which is the real star highlighting the awesome potential that Black Talon have in their musical arsenal. The track begins with a fading-in time signature bending (a bar of 4/4 followed by a bar of 5/4 if I’m not mistaken, maybe the riff is just syncopated in places – it’s hard to tell) bass riff reminiscent of Watchtower’s “Control and Resistance” before the guitars fade in beneath it with some eerie atmospheric ideas leading into some unison chugging. After the masterful intro, the main bulk of the song features a mix of the best bits of Black Talon’s style with more high speed catchy power chord- based riffing making up the verses before a slower expertly harmonised technical alternate picked riff. The chuggier riff from the intro makes a return before the band blow you away with a repeat of the process before an extended slower fade-out on the technical mid-section riff as the ending.
Sonically and production-wise, Endless Realities is pretty spot on in terms of where the elements of the band fit into the mix. However I feel that at times during the faster sections, the snare drum tends to get a little lost in the mix. As for the overall guitar sound, it sounds like the fuzzier end of a modern thrash crunch which is cool, however if it was me on the six string I’d dial the distortion back a touch for a more rounded bone-breaking crunch with less fuzz. That’s not a comment to the detriment of the band, just my preference.
Overall Black Talon’s Endless Realities is a great debut album from the Edinburgh thrashers that showcases their excellent musicianship and songwriting talent which separates them from the horde of new thrash bands who, in my opinion, seem to have little to offer. They have the skills and the sound to create their own unique brand of thrash metal with a variety of styles which showcases their influences but ultimately remains their own. I’m really looking forward to what Black Talon has to offer in the future and I can’t wait to see them supporting Flotsam and Jetsam in Glasgow tonight. See you guys there (if you like what you hear, pick up a copy of Endless Realities while you’re at it!).
Highlights: “Era of Suffering”, “Shadow Science”, “Lunatic Fringe”, “(Nothing is) All You’ll Ever Be” and “Obey”
Photo Credits: All images courtesy of Wasted State Records