Acrophobia is the fear of heights, and Burn, the debut full-length from sludgy hardcore behemoths Titan, fills me with just such dread. Colossal walls of riffs are to be found on Burn. Built on a foundation of hardcore, they’re monoliths of sound, piercing doom-laden skies and towering into a blazing aether.
From up on top, the transition between movements can feel like a lurching drop. As lofty heights are ascended, you become transfixed by the raging torrents, captivated by the chaos—you find yourself teetering on the edge of a colossal abyss. However, the chasms that appear throughout Burn are not empty voids, but deep wells of feverish rumination; eddies of ideas and noise that crash and spill, over and over again, ultimately bleeding together into an onslaught of focused fury.
Of course, there’s no chance Titan would let you fall. Everything about the Toronto, Canada-based band suggests they care deeply about their missives, and they’ve no desire to wound you; shock you out of your complacency, yes, but not injure you. Just like on their previous EPs, these are vicious songs, but the rage isn’t vacuous nor the ire hollow. Titan’s maelstrom is scraped from the boiling silicate of the mantle, and melded to the pure emotive honesty of hardcore. It is ugliness and beauty aligned—substance and mass delivered in its most dexterous and volatile form.
The bite and bark of hardcore on “Feast”, “The Fire Scriptures” and “Myopic” leaves the band’s belligerence in no doubt. Yet that unabashed wrathfulness is not one-dimensional. Within you’ll find the acidic taste of doom colliding with that rhythmic escalation found in post-hardcore. Titan are cut from the same cloth as Neurosis and Cult of Luna, and they certainly circle the Isis/Old Man Gloom locale, but that doesn’t imply they dress the same. Titan has a familiar pitch and sway, but when you encounter an engrossing track like “Telepaths”, with its acoustic strum giving way to a tumult of pitch-black noise, you find that distinct and determined personality reaffirmed.
Sitting at the heart of the album, the 10-minute “Warmer Months” illustrates the band’s craftsmanship in sculpting moods with music. Forgoing the expected dulcet lead-in, the band dive straight to the heart of a supernova. Ringing riffs and percussive and lyrical fervor build to the eventual explosion, before the track drones out in a sweltering churn of catharsis.
Similarly captivating moves can be found on “Vitiate”, which features a beautiful acoustic line shattered and buried by an inferno of distortive might, and “Sermon”, which harnesses the brute strength of hardcore and sludge and fuses it with angular sheets of massive New York noise.
Burn is a triumph for all concerned. Guest slots from vocalist Chris Colohan (Cursed) on “Myopic”, and Tyler Semrick-Palmateer (Mare), Josh Korody, Sean Pearson and Bryan W. Bray (Gates) on “Telepaths”, certainly add to the flavor. The album’s production is absolutely massive—honestly, this sounds HUGE. However, Burn’s strength obviously comes down to the band itself. Vocalist James M’s poetic lyrics are transcribed from found sources, adding a welcome existential element, and his impassioned howls leave no question about his ardency. Guitarists Chris W and Brandon M weave barbaric riffs, backed by an array of vehement militancy—their work is a tempest of ingenuity. Chris M’s drumming rolls thunderously across the entire album, and Michael H’s bass channels through the cacophonous trenches.
Burn is by turns dissonant and harmonious, and its success lies where its mass and substance intersect with such reverberating impact. Bands can make instrumentally heavy albums, and bands can make emotionally heavy albums, but combining the two is a rare feat. Impressively heartfelt and technically adept, Burn is a mesmerizing and wholly apt conflagration of passion and commitment to artistry.
In a world of far too easily manufactured and marketed fury, integrity speaks volumes and there’s no doubt whatsoever of the sincerity of Titan’s work. Burn is unequivocally intense, making for a grand metal assault. But more than that, it’s uncompromising in providing decimating narratives that do not speak down to metal fans but lift them up to witness the phoenix just waiting to rise from the funeral pyre of humanity’s failings.