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While in retrospect, the success of the now very obscure German act Talon may have only been nominal at best, they were able to garner the attention of SPV, whose German affiliate was also supporting the slightly less obscure German outfit Attack. In keeping with this, one might assume that the pressure was on to repeat the same impressive foray of rock infused, LA tinged heavy metal with a German attitude that had been paraded out by Accept with similar fashion, and that assumption would be mostly correct in the case of the sophomore effort “Never Look Back”, an ironic title given that is largely what this album does. All the usual ingredients are in place as they were before, even with the addition of Robert Böbel to replace the outgoing fret board shredder Steve Hohenberger, who since faded into obscurity.
The overall picture here is a slightly cleared and ultimately better one than the predecessor “Neutralized”. The atmosphere is a bit denser, the guitars are a bit heavier, and the vocal performance out of Uwe is a little bit more dynamic and even incorporates some occasional screams that hint at him maybe taking note of the MTV success of Accept’s “Balls To The Wall” just a couple years prior. Be this as it may, the songwriting is still very formulaic, not venturing far beyond the traditional verse/chorus with the obligatory guitar solo section that was being exploited by just about everybody from Judas Priest to Twisted Sister. While the former of the aforementioned bands is a pretty heavy influence here, the imagery of serial partiers looking for a one night stand is pretty well obvious, particularly on the more traditional rockers such as “Save Your Breath” which function like slightly harder edged answers to Dokken.
Whether one goes to a traditional metal album for a simple good time or something that is marginally deep at times, this album does a pretty consistent job of covering the obligatory bases with a mixture of relationship based and broader subject based songs. On the former side of the spectrum is a much more animated and intricate half-ballad in “Lost In Reality” that easily outclasses the lone ballad on the debut. And on the latter side with plenty of solid riffs and divergent topics are the likes of “Venomous Gods” with a hauntingly dense atmosphere and an Ozzy Osbourne-like character (think “The Ultimate Sin”), as well as that of “Defense Condition” with its furious speed reminiscent of “Freewheel Burning”, even and including a similar mixture of clean singing and screams in the mold of Halford’s performance on said song.
Pound for pound, this is the strongest and nastiest mix of metallic anthems that this band has ever put forth, even going so far as to outclass a couple of contemporary outfits of similar persuasion such as Tyran Pace at times. The ground work for what was rapidly becoming the German speed metal scene can be found on here, in at least the same level of concentration as Accept (though not of the same overall quality per say), and bits and pieces of this approach to rocking out in the continued efforts of Sinner and Primal Fear, two bands that some members of this outfit actually ended up in down the road interestingly enough. Sadly this is about as hard to come by as the famed first 2 albums put out by Angel Dust in its original form, so only the rabid seekers of German rarities need apply for a vinyl copy, while the smarter money is on digital.
The knight who stood so proudly astride the debut Neutralized returns with a new, shining chrome dragon-horse thing, and one might think this mobility might transfer to the sounds of the band's music. However, at best, Never Look Back is just as heavy as the first album, only a lot less interesting. A new guitar player had entered the ranks, one Robert Bobel joining Uwe Hoffman (also the vocalist), and stepping in for Steve Hohenberger. Perhaps this explains the thicker guitar tone found on the sophomore, or perhaps not, but that's pretty much the only difference in style separating the two albums.
Otherwise, it's more of the same, with Talon once again setting themselves up with some of the better songs on the album. "Never Look Back" is another of those slower paced, fist banging anthems, with big chords and slight melodies, while "Defense Condition" blazes forth into speed metal territory, plucky melodies and a great verse structure. After this, I felt the album took a dive in quality. "Murder Mile" is not so interesting, and "Lost in Reality" becomes the moody, forgettable power ballad, though the lead in the latter is well done. "Diamond Cut Diamond" and "Save Your Breath" return us to iron pumping prominence, but neither is all that memorable, nor is the fast pounding anthem "Running Through the Night". I do quite enjoy "Venomous Gods" and "Call It Arsen", and wish they had been shoved towards the fore to improve the album's initial impact.
Never Look Back is not a poor successor to Neutralized, but it ultimately would not increase the band's stake in the game, and it is in fact the worst of Talon's catalog. Die hards of all things German and heavy metal, that dwell blessedly upon the bliss of Accept, Scorpions, Bonfire and lesser known acts like Samain would probably lap this up, at least the finer bits. Uwe Hoffman still sounds great at the helm, his last spin at the wheel, but this record really just fails to send the band sprawling over the walls of obscurity. The songs lack the desired level of emotional bite, and the chorus parts are rarely memorable. Worth a listen only if you're obsessed with Neutralized, or one of the many similar bands spewing forth from Europe in the mid-80s.