Pain Killer started out in 1991 as an incredibly brutal and exhilarating avant-core trio. It gradually turned into a free-dub unit with much less ideas per minute. Talisman: Live in Nagoya belongs to the second end of the spectrum. Recorded on November 24, 1994, it stands definitely closer to Execution Ground than to Guts of a Virgin. The set begins with the 32-minute "Batrachophrenoboocosmomachia." It embodies everything annoying about the latter half of this group's lifetime. The dub tempo means that ideas are introduced at a slower pace. John Zorn can't decide if he should attack the tune with ferocious growls or sweet, improvised melodies. Mick Harris gets a self-indulgent drum solo (the arena rock kind, with extra reverb for the dub effect). There are moments of inspiration, but overall the piece is kept alive artificially through half of its duration. "Transport of Sorcerers," six minutes long, delivers a solid burst of grindcore, mad and inspired, if not a bit cliché -- but that's where Pain Killer excels. The closing "Ahamkara" (ten minutes) stands as a convincing example in synthesizing the two extremes of the trio's sound. Had Zorn, Harris, and Bill Laswell been able to hit that kind of balance between density and space more often, Talisman would be a must-have. As it is, it will appeal to fans of the Execution Ground era of the trio -- and even then it makes an interesting addition but is by no means an essential item.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by François Couture