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Rather heavy than vicious - 67%

Felix 1666, April 12th, 2015
Written based on this version: 1986, 12" vinyl, Steamhammer

Talon released three albums during the eighties and, to be honest, the band did not have a noticeable effect on the evolution of heavy metal. In a scene that divided its members into thrasher and poser, the guys of Talon did definitely not belong to the first group. But they also did not fulfil the expectations of the other side. I do not think that fans of terrible hair metal "beauties" such as the American Poison or Ratt enjoyed "Vicious Game". Talon played traditional heavy metal, not too fast and not too aggressive. Nevertheless, their music did not lack of a certain currishness. Some of the tunes only achieved an average level while some other pieces were really amazing. As always, it depended largely on the riffs. "Kings or Fools" offered the most fiery riffs of the album. Due to its up-tempo rhythm, this song marked the most metallic track on "Vicious Game". Its degree of heaviness was comparable with that of typical numbers of Grave Digger. (It goes without saying that I am not speaking of Digger´s gruesome ballads...)

But in general, you could not draw parallels between the songs of Talon and those of Chris Boltendahl´s crew. Firstly, Talon possessed a certain pop appeal. Boltendahl and his sidekicks were unable to integrate mainstream elements without creating a sonic pile of rubbish. Secondly, Peter Hader was a very good singer, much better than his relatively limited colleague of Grave Digger. Hader´s voice was powerful and flexible. He knew how to emphasize the keywords of the (fairly ordinary) lyrics. Already the opening title track illustrated his passionate performance. Additionally, "Vicious Game" excelled with its relatively dramatic chorus that made this song to a real earworm.

However, let me come back to the guitar work. The two guitarists of Talon had some relatively sharp riffs up their sleeves. These riffs proved the "correct" attitude of the boys, although they looked a bit strange in the photos of the back cover. Maybe you´d like to lend an ear to "Rough and Ready". After a few drum beats, an exciting and very lively riff opened the song. The guys were able to keep the tension up while delivering an excellent guitar work, a melodic yet heavy instrumental part and a stimulating chorus. Not least in view of the well accentuated use of the double bass at the end, this track belonged to the highlights of the here presented output.

As far as I can tell, the band members were technical competent and did not lack of creativity so that the songwriting reached a solid level. Talon did not bore the listener, because they avoided any redundancies. They preferred to compose comparatively short and fairly simple pieces. Admittedly, tracks like "Head for Victory" or "Push It" spread the stench of fillers and the closing ballad was not really necessary. Nevertheless, the Germans proved their mature musicianship while benefitting from a warm and more or less flawless sound. Of course, you can live a good life without knowing "Vicious Game". But it is no mistake to come into contact with this coherent work.

These nails could pierce plate mail. - 81%

hells_unicorn, February 20th, 2012

At some point after SPV picked up Talon and gave them a platform upon which to try and further propagate their sound, guitarist and vocalist Uwe Hoffmann decided to pull a Kai Hansen and relinquish his status as front man of a very promising yet not widely known heavy metal outfit. In some respects, an analogy to this band taking on their own Michael Kiske fits as Peter Hader has a much wider vocal range and fits the mid 80s German metal template a good bit better than Uwe had previously. Yet at the same time, the actual resulting sound here isn’t terribly far from where the band was previously, barring that it is slightly more posh and polished sounding, and does seem to be attempting at emulating the more successful acts that had been keeping the German end up since 1980.

“Vicious Game” is a somewhat vaguer title that doesn’t really seem to suggest much in the way of the band’s new direction, but the album cover pretty well gives away that the band’s previous imagery of an iron clad hero in shining armor has been revamped. This is an album that definitely plays up the sleaze factor something fierce, as Hader takes about just as many cues from the likes of Vince Neil and Brian Johnson as he does the gravely growl of Udo. Combined with an even more formulaic songwriting set that is as enticingly atmospheric as Leatherwolf’s “Street Ready” yet as cutting as Accept’s “Russian Roulette”, and this album has all of the right elements to play with the big boys of the day, though for some strange reason this never came to pass.

Song for song, this is easily the most accessible and predictable of Talon’s offerings, spending a good chunk of time nestled comfortably in a mid-paced rock groove and channeling imagery of thousands of lighters painting the world beyond the 4th wall of the arena stage. “Rough And Ready” and “Fight For Justice” are the most instantly memorable for their signature riff work and catchy chorus lines, while much of the bulk of the album tends to follow suit in a similar goal of fitting into a regular radio slot. The outliers consist of a heavily dense keyboard intro that is a bit uncharacteristic of this style and more in line with Helloween, alongside a pretty standard 80s power ballad in “So Cold” to close things out, a song that reminds heavily of Leatherwolf’s “Hideaway”. But the pinnacle of this album’s strength hits like an iron fist in “Kings Or Fools”, a riveting speed metal song cut right from the Judas Priest mold and further charged with a nasty as hell vocal delivery out of Hader.

While the first two albums put out by this bunch seemed to be reaching for the less stylized aspects of the NWOBHM and blending them with a slightly larger sounding German interpretation, this album all but finds itself flirting with the LA sound a bit more, while also taking on some of the more mainstream glam ideas that Saxon and Tygers Of Pan Tang were dabbling with in the mid 80s. It’s definitely thick and heavy enough to still be qualified as metal, but it’s definitely heavier on sleaze than it is on mystique; this being good or bad is obviously a subjective matter. This is the easiest of Talon’s albums to find in physical form today, though original vinyl pressings are equally as pricey and rare. Scavengers of all things 80s will probably go for it, but even a fan of mid 80s Accept should look into this album even if only through the digital medium.

Aye, and one that many of us lost - 67%

autothrall, November 15th, 2010

By the time of Talon's third album Vicious Game, it had become painfully obvious that something was not sticking with the metal buying public, because they had yet to develop much of a notoriety for themselves. The material had been declining in strength, so the band decided to adopt a full time vocalist and Uwe Hoffman would concentrate primarily on guitars. As it turns out, this was not such a bad choice, because this is arguably the best vocal performance you will find on any of their records, maintaining the general style of Hoffman but more consistent on the high end. He's also capable of a more effective mid range that cuts like a David Defeis of Virgin Steele, or Eric Adams of Manowar.

When I took my first glance at the vinyl, I was a little concerned that this change in lineup might also have brought about a shift in the band's style, towards a hard rock accessibility. This was not an uncommon occurrence for the period, as bands were either jumping hoops into the thrash game or the hard rock, radio frenzy, but fortunately Talon keep it pretty consistent with the prior efforts. Yes, the knight remains, even if he's reduced to the face of some long-nailed fortune teller's tarot (or playing) cards. The band always had a cross-cultural appeal between the metal and rock genres, and to be truthful, Vicious Game does strafe the line towards the latter more than Neutralized or Never Look Back, but for the most part, we're dealt the hand of solid heavy metal.

The album opens with this powerful synthesizer intro that really breeds anticipation that the record might kick off with something as forceful as the prior two, but "Vicious Game" teases that it's possibly a power ballad until the verse kick into mid-paced rocking, a worthwhile showcase for Hader's vocals as he runs from mid-ranged to screaming that seems half Udo, half Peavy Wagner. There are perhaps too many of these Accept/Judas Priest style rockers, like "Push It", "Sunrise" and "Hopeless Love", and they're not as interesting as the faster tracks like "Fever" which is very much like 80s Manowar, or late speedsters like "Kings or Fools" and "Rough and Ready", which channel Talon's strength into something more productive and memorable. As usual, the band incorporate a quickly forgotten power ballad, but this time it's shoved to the end of the album ("So Cold"), and sounds a little like Queensryche, strangely enough.

The production here is better than the previous albums, and I figured that this selection of songs might have given the band the edge they so desperately needed. Alas, Vicious Game would be the final effort from Talon, before they moved on to other projects and hopefully better lives. Robert Bobel briefly turned up in Evidence One, while drummer Tommy Resch played with Sinner. Perhaps the luckiest of them, Uwe Hoffman himself, got to play in Headhunter, the great thrash side-band of Destruction's Schmier. Poor Talon is barely given a mention or nod anywhere, but the avid collector of all things 80s and German could certainly do a lot worse than this album. Personally, I'd reach for Neutralized any day over the rest of the band's catalog, but Vicious Game would appeal most to the fan of lighter hair metal or hard rock. It's got some strong points (the vocals and mix), but not nearly enough of them. Rest in peace.