It’s not often I sit down to review an album from a band I know absolutely nothing about, but a quick glance through the press release for Taliesin’s new album Disciple tells me pretty much I needed to know.
Their previous release Faceless was voted Best Australian Metal Album of 2022 on Sentinel Daily, with the band themselves declaring the music on Disciple is heavier and more progressive again. Which can’t be a bad thing.
Opening with the title track the first thing I notice is its running time of nearly nine minutes, but before I could get lost in the bowels of time Taliesin manage to harness my focus into an eerily haunting intro that oozes menace.
Cries ring out over a steady rhythm of sonic confusion that gradually builds as the guitars fade in with more urgency that in turn morphs into a tasty riff that instantly gets the head banging in subconscious approval.
Looking through the band members I see all bar drummer Wayne Bateup provide some form of vocals, but lead singer Dave Howe gets things started with a tempered vocal passage as alluring as the intro piece.
Guitarists Richard Moseley and Reuben Durham slide into a pocket and take us on a transient journey of layered atmospherics keeping in tune with the musical landscape so delicately painted.
It’s kind of cool knowing fuck all about these guys because it keeps me guessing as to whether they will continue down this wandering path or explode into a deranged breakdown out of nowhere.
Then Bateup gets to work on the kit, thundering a blistering array of double kicks that suggest some form of conflict within the lyrics. No wonder he doesn’t contribute vocals, the poor guy must be exhausted already.
About three parts through the guitars chugg a little more sporadically with sounds of rain and discontent interrupting the status quo briefly before Howe eases back into things, leading Disciple to a well-measured conclusion that still gives little away as to the sonic direction of the album as a whole.
Keep ‘em guessing I always say!
I’m not sure what C.O.T.E stands for, but it’s definitely something more on the darker side of music.
Drums and guitar explode from the silence, quickly giving way to an eclectic riff that flashes into solo territory and back again with speed and precision.
Howe’s voice is the perfect accompaniment to the sonic platform laid out around him, with definite nods to the mighty Dream Theatre evident without being overly dominant. Which, believe me, is no easy thing to do.
So far the album is almost operatic in nature. Not in the way that makes you want to throw plates at the wall, but rather in the sense that if you allow yourself to get lost in the music you get the sense there is a much larger story at play here.
A quick glance back to the press release tells me the songs cover themes of war, cults, relationships and self-preservation, so I’m thinking I might be on the money there.
Custom Of The Sea fires up with what sounds like electronic bongos, but they soon subside, drowned out by another healthy dose of guitar riffage that spurs Bateup into action which in turn entices Howe back to the fore to resume his storytelling.
These tracks are all extremely well crafted and structured, seemingly setting individual layers of sound that combine for an overwhelming sense of grandeur.
This number is more guitar-driven than the previous songs, with Moseley and Durham controlling the musical narrative with alternating moments of finesse and destruction.
I’ve heard some God Damn Lies in my time, but wasn’t expecting the calming, ambient nature of the next song of the same name. Keys form the nucleus of the opening passage before a swarm of alternating voices send Taliesin spiralling out of the calm and into the fire.
Howe is singing something about a master plan which adds further credence to my theory that the band are creating a tangible storyline through Disciple, and it would be interesting to look through the lyric sheet to see just how deep that story runs.
This is more of a rock-tinged number despite subtle timing and melody changes, and if I had to guess I would say this might have been one of the album’s singles?
But it’s pretty fucken good either way. Especially when a breakdown of sorts clears space for a wicked guitar solo that is mesmerizing without being overly imposing.
Another tasty as fuck solo towards the end of God Damn Lies only serves to reinforce my earlier thoughts, making this my favourite track thus far.
Every Time I Close My Eyes breathes life with a swarm of electronics that are soon joined by matching drums and more keyboards, giving this track an almost outer-worldly kind of vibe.
It’s a different sounding song than the ones that have come before, but the unmistakable vocal presence of Howe also ensures it still sounds like Taliesin. Is it weird that I can say that despite my earlier statements of knowing nothing about the band?
Let’s just say no, shall we…
Frustration kicks off with soft keyboard strokes that lengthen periodically before the overpowering force of drums adds an almost tribal feel to proceedings. It’s a contrasting display of light and shade that continues in an unseen battle that is only separated when the sweet sounds of electric guitar act as peacemaker and conductor all in one to reset Frustration back in the heavier direction.
This is a strange assortment of competing forces that somehow manage to come together into a merging of sounds that almost shouldn’t work but somehow do. Taliesin have so much going on over the course of Disciple but do so with subtle nuances that ensure nothing feels forced or out of place.
Blindfold ushers in more keys in a delicate and poignant fashion, threatening to unleash the first full ballad of the album.
Despite my aversion to such tunes, I persevere long enough for the guitars to kick in after around 3 minutes, but it’s not enough to convince me to see things through to the end I’m sorry. After skipping through a couple of times my fears are vindicated at every turn.
Yep, it’s a ballad. Not a bad one, but let’s move on.
Burnt promises to add some heat to things and doesn’t disappoint with a fast-paced round of riffage re-establishing the rockier side of Taliesin’s nature. Their sound has a definite harder edge, but essentially these guys lean far to the progressive side of musicality and do so with aplomb.
A cool breakdown about halfway through led by a nice back and forth between bass and guitar acts as a timely segue into the harder side of prog, setting the tone nicely for album closer The Road.
The track opens with a renewed intent before retreating into itself and entering an almost surreal musical plateau that suggests whatever story these guys have been weaving is coming to a satisfactory conclusion.
But not without a few hiccups as the guitars scream haphazardly in contrast to the sense of closure swirling around them. It is a beautiful and perfect final act from Taliesin that acts as both a closing curtain and suggested sequel in one.
And if that’s the case I am definitely interested in continuing this journey further down the track.