“Asylum” is a stripped back, nuanced and capivating series of songs from British progressive metal outfit, the strangely undervalued Talanas. Talanas’s last record, the excellent “The Waspkeeper,” was an unerring statement of intent- it was dynamic death metal of the finest order- intelligent, rich with ideas and compelling listening from start to finish. Comparisons with Ackercoke and My Dying Bride were frequent and not, if we are being honest, entirely unfair. You would have probably forgiven the band if they had decided that the best way forward was to produce a facsimile of that debut and rest on their collective laurels. Not for these renowned and unfailingly polite gentlemen of metal.
“Asylum” is a five track EP and is an acoustic affair, indulging the more progressive end of the band’s artistic bent and imbuing it with a dark, haunting undercurrent that works really rather well. Eschewing (presumably momentarily) the pummeling death tropes and dynamic riffing that made their debut such a success, “Asylum” reveals itself as a delicate, shimmering gothic pyscho-drama with a resonance that remains long after you have finished listening.
You always got the idea that Talanas were a richer and more varied band than some of their rent-a-death contemporaries. And so it proves- “Asylum” reminds me mostly of the Japan work of David Sylvian. I’m not a betting man but I’d happily wager that Sinden has a well worn copy of Sylvian‘s record “Ghosts,” a record of supreme minimalism and languid melancholy.
‘Sister Damnable’ is all moody atmospherics, loosely hung together over a light but unmistakable melody but driven by Hal Sinden‘s deep, clean vocal talents; its musical passages guiding the listener through a dark and mood filled ambience; we have been sucked into a world that is scary yet eerily romantic. None more goth, then.
‘My lady white’ extends this gothic narrative with a notable level of melancholia. On ‘The Apostle’ the band arrive at what is probably the best track on this efficient and effective EP, full of layered musical passages and darkly delicious atmospherics. The title track continues in a similar vein, taking the brooding to a different level of ennui. ‘Nothing Gained’ is the plaintive closing track, bleak in its outlook yet beguiling in its execution; it’s a worthy coda to an enterprise that is by turns inventive, mournful and maudlin but never despairing.
I’ve been a bit of a fan of Talanas for some time now and “Asylum” has done nothing to dent my enthusiasm; if anything, it has been consolidated. This is the sort of record for those 3am red wine in hand moments when the rain is pressing hard against the glass; handsome, evocative and stirring stuff. Welcome back gentlemen.