June 29th, 2012
And here it is! The first full length from Canadian sludge act Titan. I've been given the pleasure of reviewing it a little early. It's been in the works a while and from the live version of some of the songs I've heard ("The Fire Sculptures", "Little Seeds", "Indulgence") I already had a feeling it was going to live up to expectations. And now it's on the cusp of being released upon the world.
Burn (another album mastered by Colin Marston) is something for this Toronto group to be proud of. I'm not going to argue it breaks molds or is hugely innovative but what it does do is raise this band up high on the list of sludge/hardcore acts that deserve a lot of attention. They have created an enormous sound which does serve to separate them from most others that reside in this fusion of genres. It is a commanding, extremely loud and passionate album that refines and cements Titan's sound into something that shouldn't be ignored.
Somehow James' vocals here are even more ferocious and loud then on their previous records. His presence is utterly overwhelming, and the energy he displays in every song on Burn is something to be revered. Harsh and vicious in tone. Even when he reaches down to a lower throaty growl (as on "Indulgence" and "Sermon") this power is not lost. It is enough to peel the paint from the walls. You can taste the wickedness in his passionate delivery of each line, the melancholic and serious tone invigorates the listener especially in his more drawn-out yells. The guy has mad pipes.
James gives this record true immensity alone (even without taking into account the riffs and drumming) and this is immediately shown on the opener "Feast" which strikes a devastating blow, plowing down the listener with an imposing tower of shaking riffs and beastly roars. The main rhythm is killer enough but then the song slows, and when the energy returns and builds after a solo bass line it becomes something far more mighty. It's definitely one of my favorite tracks on Burn next to "Warmer Months" and "Telepaths."
I mentioned it before in my review of "Colossus" but again compared to his solemn, silent, brooding position in Gates the contrast here is jarring. There are also the added vocal talents on "Myopic" from Chris Colohan (of Cursed and Burning Love) who is someone that always brings an added element of terrifying aggression to any project he touches, and it's no different here.
Speaking of riffs: the ease with which Titan blend swirling hardcore and sludge with atmosphere is astonishing. Chris W. and Brandon comfortably shift between screaming powerchord leads, thrashy, dirty galloping and strings of tremolo picking, to a doomy series of sustained notes and chords, and then on to huge distorted crushing slabs of sludge that rock and lean back and forth with purpose — often all in one track (certainly the longer ones like "Warmer Months", a volcanic track, which really helps ward off any sense of monotony). The formula is straight-forward but dense and very energetic.
The yearning dirges that build slowly, occasionally harmonizing, clouding the listeners psyche with fiery atmosphere (without dipping into post-rock) are quite impressive. And then they'll break into barrage of chugging chords with a hypnotic sway which is always satisfying. There's only one moment of technical indulgence on the final track right near the end: a short flurry of sweeps serving to heighten the final moments of the album and it manages to fit well without becoming masturbatory.
The bass duties of Mike do sometimes feel smothered by the loudness of everyone else here but on some tracks it's far easier to pick up on (for example on "The Fire Sculptures"), and other times it spikes up at key moments helping to anchor the heaviness of the guitars with a satisfying and smooth rumble. He follows the guitars elegantly without any trouble, pulling the thick riffs out of his amp with just as much fervor to batter your headphones to shit. Chris M. unleashes a ridiculous battering of percussion on every front of Burn. It doesn't rise too far above the other instruments in the mix so it never feels like it buries these elements, but his work is far from going unheard as each thunderous strike of a kick, tom or cymbal quakes and pounds deeply throughout each song.
It's a constant aggressive attack, especially on tracks like "Feast", "Warmer Months", "Little Seeds" and "The Fire Sculptures" where the force of their guitar work is oppressive enough to match James' roars. The only real break from this molten assault being the brief acoustic interlude "Corrupt", the clean section in "Vitiate", and then a slow acoustic, ritual build in the beginning of "Telepaths" — a track which could arguably contain some blackened noise influence no doubt due to input from both Bryan of Gates coupled with the legendary Tyler Semrick-Palmater (one of three brilliant guys behind the revered sludge band Mare); this combination of talents is phenomenal.
In fact the group work on "Telepaths" makes for one of the more interesting and engaging tracks on Burn. Beginning with the cycling hums as a faint sustained "aun" whirls behind acoustic strums and slow tribal drums for almost 3 minutes. Then the intense stillness is broken as the slow riffs erupt through while the noise reverberates behind them, and the initial deep growls of James slowly are overtaken by Tyler's signature pained wails (he does a great job, bringing a cold, haunting power into this track); guitars picking up pace beneath. It breaks with sudden cymbal crashes before slamming into a blackened fury with both vocalist bellowing, and a subtle churning dissonance that boils below. One final break as things come to a grinding, noisy halt and in comes Bryan from Gates who uses his skills wonderfully once again.
Outside of those points be ready to brace yourself for continuous volleys of well honed sludge riffage. Even in slower, shorter tracks like "Indulgence" with it's trembling distortion intertwined with plodding slams or "Vitiate" with its sad, mountainous force the echoing melody is kept massive.
A highly recommended surge of atmospheric and sludgy hardcore I suggest you all ingest this year. All of what Titan has been crafting up to this point is crystallized on Burn with blazing fury and it is tremendous — showing that they are quite deserving in calling their group Titan.The addition of several other extremely talented musicians from the Toronto area is just icing on the cake. There is room to grow from here and I'm interested to hear what they produce in the future. I also can't wait to see them again this weekend.
Here's the deal: as of June 22nd you will be able to download this for free (with the option to donate what you please) from the Hypaethral Records bandcamp page linked below. I've been asked to keep all other links off this review and I will honor that request. You can hear it streaming over here in the meantime.
Eventually you'll be able to pick this up in hard copy from both Hypaethral Records in North America and through React With Protest in Europe. Check Titan's official website for updates on this and their immanent European tour.
DOWNLOAD (Bandcamp) June 22nd