AMG’s Unsigned Band Rodeö: Titanskull – Titanomachy

Back in the primordial days of this here blog, we attempted something called “AMG’s Unsigned Band Rodeö.” The basic idea was to select a bunch of unsigned bands and give them the collective review treatment to find the most worthy buried gems. It was our humble effort to remind folks that the metal underground is still an important part of the world of metal.

It’s 2022. That means Manowar‘s  Battle Hymns now rests, with a sore back, at the olde, olde age of 40.1 Similarly, the once wild and overblown sound of choice cheese mongers Savatage has curdled into twinkly Christmas tunes—a shadow of their once mountainous selves. But heavy metal—the most sword-wielding and blood-pumping variety—persists all the same. But, in these modern times, who rides with steels raised instilling fear in the heart of man and beast alike? Bands like Visigoth certainly nail the conquerer’s spirit, while others like Witherfall capture the grandeur of a proper extended and melodious romp. Surely, though, there’s room for more at the king’s table. Enter newcomers from Los Angeles, CA Titanskull, who, by the power of their collective might, bring forth to the arena their debut record, Titanomachy. With an energy not unlike a young Iced Earth they rush to the gate with a galloping swagger and frightful yell, can their untested tunes best the ears of our cantankerous staff, seasoned with age and opinions? Either way, you can join Titanskull in the good fight on Facebook or Bandcamp because an army is what they need to win this war of heavy metal. – Dolphin Whisperer

Steel Druhm: Titanskull play a style of epic swordcore that brings me to the forge. On Titanomachy they attempt to blend traditional metal staples with the grand sensibilities of Eternal Champion and Visigoth, and that’s ground hero of my wheelhouse when executed correctly. And Titanskull shows they can do this, sometimes. The band’s eponymous track is blazing Painkiller-isms slammed headlong into the mailed fist of Visigoth with vestigial traces of Meliah Rage, and the alchemy works. Beefy riffs stir the war cauldron and Bill Villayne delivers forceful vocals full of machismo and all is good in the kingdom. But soon the enemy is at the gates and its name is King Bloat. Songs like “Always Now” and “Out of Time” overstay their welcome and become tiring though the core of each is good, and this overwriting infects the entire album. They also struggle with consistency, with “Burn It Down (the Pyre)” sounding too hard rock oriented, corny, and out of place compared to epic bashers like “Through the Gates of Horn.” The band have talent and show flashes of goodness, but the tendency to stretch songs well past the breaking point doom Titanomachy to bitter defeat. The potential is there but much sharper swords are needed for the Grand Crusade. 2.0/5.0

GardensTale: This album is odd. Or to be more accurate, the album is at odds with itself. Most mediocre albums lack a clear vision and identity. They’ll poorly emulate their betters and fail to establish a foundation from which to grow. Titanskull knows itself, is focused on a clear destination, and has no idea how to get there. Mixing Iced Earth and Savatage, Titanomachy constructs power metal from thrash riffs, and sometimes succeeds, possibly by accident. “It’s Alive” is fun and full of vitality with a Judas Priest vibe, and though the vocals are subpar they get points for their spirited delivery. “Die for the King” is a mid-paced banger with a simple but addictive chorus. But the bad tracks outweigh the good. “Always Now” is a repetitive slog with terrible lyrics that seems to never end, even though it’s under 6 minutes. “Burn it Down” is ironically undercooked, hiding one-fifth of a good riff and a mostly decent solo under piles and piles of awkward phrasing, bad transitions and utterly aimless compositions. The disconnect between the well-written tracks and the duds is so large as to be seriously jarring, and makes me question their composition methods altogether. Titanskull shows promise, but the songwriting and performances all need a lot more consistency for its music to be palatable in the future. 2.0/5.0

Twelve: Titanskull, on their debut full-length Titanomachy, have essentially dedicated themselves to having fun in a traditional heavy metal sort of way. There’s that trademark will-they-won’t-they with the thrash and the power metal, the super-high cleans and the gritty shouting, the big guitar solos, and the bigger choruses. It’s safe, it’s fun, it’s metal. It’s easy to get sucked into moments like the huge chorus riff in “Die for the King,” the surprisingly touching acoustic bits in “Always Now,” and the strong vocal melodies in “Burn It Down (The Pyre),” and to just enjoy Titanomachy for what it is. Not every song lands quite so strongly, and it’s largely because the hour-long album contains only ten songs, none of which are big, exciting epics; each essentially uses the same “basic traditional metal” template. Still, as much as Titanomachy would be much more impactful as a shorter album—I would imagine that a little more editing is really all they’ll need to put out a very good sophomore release—it’s hard for me to view it as anything other than a strong start for Titanskull. 3.0/5.0

Carcharodon: The Titanomachy is the epic battle waged in Hellenic mythology between the Gods of Olympus and Cronos’ titans. It doesn’t get much more metal than that. Surely, with for inspiration, no one could tell Titanskull that they need MOAR swords? No. What Titanskull needs is a better blacksmith, one who can consistently turn out functional swords. Because Titanomachy is a record of such wildly varying quality that it cannot even be classified as mixed. It is heavy metal in its most traditional sense, with aspects of the classics like Maiden and Priest but also more recent hits in these parts, including Megaton Sword and Eternal Champion. What Titanskull lacks, which each of those others has (or at least has had at some point in their career) is the ability to write a consistent album. Titanomachy has some solid moments, like the rough-hewn riff of “Die for the King” and the cantering “Titanskull”. But for each of those decent bits, there is a “Burn it Down (The Pyre)” or an “Always Now,” both of which are truly terrible. I don’t like to single out individuals as to blame for a band’s shortcomings but sometimes there is no escaping it and lead vocalist Bill Villayne is simply not good enough. Lacking both power in his voice and the ability to carry a tune, he isn’t the vocalist you need to front a band doing what Titanskull is trying to do. It’s also fair to say that, at an hour long, Titanomachy drags much like I imagine a titan’s corpse would, and that the songwriting is hit or miss, but fix the vocals and we can talk again. 2.0/5.0

Felagund: Bloat, my friends, is not just an unfortunate symptom following that third kielbasa. It’s also probably the most persistent musical issue facing all of metaldom. Even great bands with backlogs of good to great albums can be driven to substandard results due to an ego-driven unwillingness to edit themselves. I hear something similar on Titanomachy, the debut from Los Angeles-based trio Titanskull, who traffic in a heady mixture of 80s thrash, 80s trad, and 80s cheese (including a surprising Skid Row-inspired section on “Always Now” and the entire track “Onward”). It’s a shame too, because despite all that gaseous inflation, there’s a lot on display here that’s fun, engaging and downright promising. Titanskull can craft a nifty hook, write a solid riff, deliver an effective if sometimes overwrought anthemic vocal, and they do a decent job of keeping things fun, catchy and heavy. Unfortunately, Titanomachy would pack a much more potent punch if so many tracks weren’t overlong and repetitive (I’m looking at you, “Die for the King” and “The Gods All Sleep”). Coupled with some cringe lyrics, with “Burn It Down (The Pyre)” as the most egregious offender, and you’re left with a promising but uneven, rocky debut. Titanomachy is proof Titanskull have it in them to deliver the goods, but some rookie mistakes hold them back. Yet unlike some of their forebears, I think these issues are more a product of eagerness than ego, and I look forward to what comes next once some of the greenness fades. 2.5/5.0

Show 1 footnote

  1. I feel this in my metal soul. – Steel
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