Talanas – Asylum [EP]

Released in February 2014
Acoustic atmospheric death metal
Released via Eulogy Media

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Having been bought over by the first three releases from London based Talanas, I was honestly unsure of what to expect when confronted with the prospect of their unplugged effort, Asylum. Let’s face it, some past efforts by other artists to take a heavy band into the sphere of un-amped song writing have produced pretentious and pedestrian results. However, in this case, I am pleased to say it doesn’t disappoint.

While they have done away with a significant proportion of the technical riffery of their previous releases (Joe Butterworth’s massive drum kit still gets put to good use!), it has been more than adequately replaced with a haunting layering of intelligent rhythmic structures. As a musician with a minor obsession with tricking the ear, I get a deeper level of enjoyment out of noting the way in which my head subconsciously nods in unison, regardless of the strange blend of timings and bar counts. It stands out as a mark of excellence when music in this vein subtly distracts from the fact that a lot of this isn’t in 4/4, the standard time signature for…well…pretty much everything.

Where in general, metal leans heavily on the voice of distorted guitar to convey concepts of malevolence, this stripped down creature stalks the rooms of the mind as something altogether darker. The ephemeral melange of enigmatic sonics displays no ham-fisted gothicisms, neatly side-stepping the comedy trap which snares many others treading similar shadowy realms. Success in this department is possibly due in part to front man Hal Sinden’s inherited understanding of creative expression through his theatrical lineage. It certainly doesn’t seem to have hurt.

It may not be a universal viewpoint, but I have always believed that interpretation should be open to the listener. Although the lyrical content herein is hinged around ‘Britain’s rich history of supernatural and occult-based tales of murderous hauntings, possession, witchcraft & insanity’, I feel swamped in an otherworldly sensation: I swear it’s almost affecting my vision, transforming familiar surroundings into an eerie, threatening and alien world. I feel transported.

Another enduring quality of these five-tracks is that they balance the musical holy trinity of character, emotion and technical ability, without overplaying any of the three. It’s a humble approach which does the finished recording no end of favours. In aiming, above everything else, to create ‘specific atmospheres regardless of the genre’, Talanas appear to have ticked all the boxes on the mission check-list.

It seeps through to every decision too, with guest artists selected for their ability to contribute to the grander scheme, rather than as a mere exercise in name-dropping. Fellow Eulogy Media artist Beth Ryan provides some ice cold vocal melodies on the soulfully ethereal The Apostle, while the hammered dulcimer (yes, I did have to look that up if you must know) brings a sinister Prussian carnival air to My Lady White at the hands of Tim Manning.

Has this been a tricky review to write? Yes. There is no real comparison to other bands to be made, which is possibly the best way to describe new music to the reader. If you like the unique, the creative and the intricate, performed with integrity, I whole-heartedly recommend this. It’s certainly a release which will stick with me for a long time.

4.5 / 5

Paul Macmillan

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