Black Talon have returned, they have had a bit of time off to recover and rejuvenate from a line up change. I have got to say that I have been awaiting their return immensely, so it is with great excitement I begin this review.
This is an outstanding E.P. and I was genuinely upset when track five ended, I needed this to continue into album length and can’t wait for the guys to deliver a second album. In the eyes of the Scottish metal scene, Black Talon had a lot to prove with this E.P. what with the lengthy absence and line up change. To me, it sounds like Black Talon proved themselves to themselves in solitary hell of the rehearsal room and this E.P. is the signed sealed and delivered evidence that proof was proven.
The E.P. kicks off with title track Existential Crisis, the mix is nicely bass guitar heavy representing their new single guitar line up which comes over really well. Drums are booming giving the rhythm section a nice solid feel. Johnny has a new found darkness to his vocals, it’s sounds like he has looked into the abyss since their debut album Endless Realities and returned with a heart like an icy comet. I always thought he was a really promising vocalist that delivered the goods often, I am happy to say that he is delivering the goods full time now. The whole track had me mindful of both Forbidden and Nevermore, especially the vocals. The track is a magnificent example of proggy thrash, that remains utterly accessible and doesn’t over complicate itself into techy thrash territory.
In eighties guitar magazines there used to be loads of adverts for surreal niche instructional VHS’s with titles like ‘how to shred like a molten hurricane’ wherein maniacs would impart baffling theory whilst tearing up their fret-boards. Tonnes of that shit is on YouTube now and I must say I have spent a lot of time watching Frank Gambale, Paul Gilbert, Yngwie Malmsteen, Michael Angelo and the like tastelessly shred at lightning speed to the backing of a lone drum machine in pastel coloured rooms. Rory’s lead guitar sounds like those sorts of VHS’s and I mean that as a true compliment. The lead guitar on this E.P. is second to none and head and shoulders above any of their peers, I was wondering how Rory would hold up being the lone lead player since the departure of Famous Mike, he has excelled himself completely.
Second track Descent is a short instrumental with audio samples giving it an atmosphere that took me back to the late 80’s when this sort of thing was more common. It is a welcome reminder that the band have more ideas than just ‘songs’. I think it’s cool when bands branch out with wee instrumental ideas like this, but don’t get me wrong, it’s not a throwaway piece, it’s a short focussed riff a thon that merges straight into…
…Deprecation Zone, third track, absolute belter. Some really cool vocal ideas in this that give not just the track, but the band their identity above and beyond the rest of the Scottish bands currently playing thrash orientated music. Great track which climaxes with a cacophany of metal AHHHHHHHHHH’s and whammy wails, fucking great stuff!
Unmarked Grave starts off with some atmospheric clean guitar, very late 80’s, in the best possible way. The track builds up wonderfully, really showing off the superb power trio musical backing the band now sports. Vocals don’t come in for a good while, which is a sign of a good singer, knowing when to shut up and let the band riff. When the vocals come in, the impact is there for sure and he really commands the mood and peeling off a beauty of an AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH at the 4.20 mark which only added to my notion that this track reminded me of some of the more spooky elements of early Annihilator and Dark Angel.
Final track Mentality Divine is a riff heavy track, with again some awesome metal vocals that have some ace Warrell Dane style harmonies. One of the things that can really let bands in the extreme metal scene down is vocals. So many bands have a set of awesome musicians, but then have a vocalist who is anything but. I am not against heavy vocals whatsoever, but too often bands just get a mate to shout, which is not the same as an impassioned heavy vocalist who has pride and attitude in his craft. I think it takes a lot of balls to sing clean all the way through every track, because you have to be able to absolutely deal with it on every single note and syllable, not to mention lay bare your personality and emotion. Johnny’s vocals really make this E.P. for me, but saying that, the musicianship and quality of the riffs and the clear bond these guys have gives Johnny a solid gold musical platform to shine on.
Thrash was my time, back in the day and it is one of my earliest influences and deepest roots. I got into other styles later and to be fair, a lot (all) of my favourite thrash bands turned to shit in the 90’s and I sort of lost touch with the ongoing developments of the genre. I have heard a bunch of stuff in recent years that clearly dig the old-school and do some awesome music, however I just cannot get into all this zany-pizza-party-thrash-bong-bullshit that I see and hear a lot of. In short Black Talon are the first thrash band that I can truly relate to and enjoy since Rust In Peace came out. I am not saying this is retro in any way though, just cool, authentic and without a gimmick.
It’s no secret that I detest nu-metal, perhaps too much for how long ago it was, but the greatest crime nu-metal pulled was the dumbing down of metal musicianship with not just a removal of all the good bits (solos and histrionic vocals being two good bits), but a virulent opposition of good bits…. Well, Black Talon are just the good bits, if nu-metal is a slug, then Black Talon’s Existential E.P. is salt…. We need Black Talon and their Existential salts right now as there has been of late an uneasy tinge of ‘bands in masks’, ‘rap metal’ and ‘whinging’ appearing in the Scottish scene again, for the most part these bands just buzz around Metal 2 The Masses like flies round shit and hardly ever taint the real scene, but their very existence may be a warning of a new (nu) dark ages approaching… We need bands like Black Talon and E.P.s like Existential for the metal scene to thrive and survive. I don’t just enjoy their existence, I applaud and salute it!