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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.