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What an excellent release! Titan Force’s self-titled debut with none other than singer extraordinaire, one of my personal favorite metal singers, the inimitable Harry “The Tyrant” Conklin. He gives one of his most passionate performances I have seen him give in his career, even going so far as to top his stellar work in Jag Panzer. The emotion and skill with which he sings is jaw-dropping, especially the tasteful use of vibrato. This release pretty much dominates anything this side of Ample Destruction, and like fluffy_ferret said, it sounds like it hasn’t aged at all since its release.
The production is excellent, with every instrument complementing each other, instead of vying for dominance. The most comparable production is probably The Spectre Within, not in how it sounds, but how well aural space is utilized.
Every song has something new that you will find with each subsequent listen, and that alone makes this album worth listening to. It’s pretty much impossible to list favorites, since every song is practically perfect, but I would have to say “Chase your Dreams” and “New Age Rebels” are the best off the album. The live version of “Fool on the Run” completely dominates the original, go Youtube it right now to see some of Conklin’s best screams. The annoying middle part from the original has gone AWOL, making the song much better.
The solos are some of the best, most well-constructed, and most memorable that metal has seen. Each solo feels like a continuation of the song, as opposed to being a reason for the guitarists to show off their skills and interrupt the flow.
I highly recommend this album, especially if you like Fates Warning, Sanctuary, and Queensryche. Few bands have been able to master the marriage of true power and melody as well as this band did with their debut, and for that reason alone you should get this album.
There is a few albums, made in the transitional age of 1988-1992, that can be equally characterized as both blessed and cursed at the same time. Their blessing is that they retain all of the energy, aggression and edge of classic 80's heavy metal, yet combining it with the technical sound and sophisticated approach of the (at the time) emerging progressive metal genre. Their curse, on the other hand, is the exact same thing. They are too complex for the common classic metal fan, and too direct and cliche for the prog audience. Thus, even the best of them (Titan Force, Into The Mirror Black, Oliver Magnum) have remained in a cult status ever since their release.
"Titan Force" is actually a "how to" metal album. It contains everything an album needs to be named as complete, name it riffs, haunting choruses, amazing vocal performance (all hail the Tyrant) or splendid rhythm section work. Titan Force balance miraculously between power and melody, technicality and directness, in a way that (in my humble opinion) only Sanctuary managed to at the time. Combining the 80's metal energy with the 90's metal intellect, "Titan Force" shines in the crossroads of two ages. Too bad it's not mentioned as equal in the same leagues of both straightforward heavy metal and technical prog/power. But it's OK. Whoever discovers this gem will know what I'm talking about.
Titan Force’s self titled debut can in some ways be compared to Cloven Hoof’s A Sultan’s Ransom. Like Cloven Hoof, Titan Force were obviously going for something different, but for some reason it didn’t sit well with the crowd, which probably was the result of the band being too far ahead of their time – the metal scene just wasn’t ready for them. In retrospect, the talent and vision Titan Force possessed is painstakingly obvious. Listening to it today, their debut doesn’t sound like it has aged a day since its release, which is an impressive feat for a 80s album. It even manages to sound modern, and – though it may be due to my relative inexperience – like a unique occurrence in the history of metal.
Sound-wise, Titan Force is an uplifting and invigorating experience on a level few bands are capable of reaching. The material is catchy and flowing as the songs are mainly composed of long, sweeping and incredibly refreshing melodies. Structurally, it’s a bit more complicated than I expected, approaching the complexity of a Fates Warning album. The guitar work reminds me of Jag Panzer, but it’s generally faster and played more on the higher end of the scale and sometimes focusing more on single note picking and solos rather than power chords. That, and the crystal sharp (and not particularly heavy) distortion, produces a sound that sounds far removed from other power/heavy (and other) metal bands of the same era. The most surprising element of the music is the vocals from Harry Conklin, who delivers an outstanding performance, far superior even to his work in Jag Panzer. I never thought him capable of reaching such high notes but he does it flawlessly (and consistently) here, and with a passion and energy that leaves the listener spellbound. Altogether, definitely one of the better vocal performances I’ve heard, technically and otherwise. Even if the rest of the album was crap, Titan Force would be a worthy purchase for Conklin’s vocals alone.
Fortunately, the rest of the album isn’t crap - far from it - as Titan Force is a winner in (almost) every conceivable way. When I added “almost”, I was referring to the lack of true highlights… with the exception of ‘Chase Your Dreams’, ‘Blaze of Glory’ and ‘New Age Rebels’, every other song belongs in the “very good” but not “exceptional” category of songs. The overall songwriting quality and consistency – spiced with Conklin’s charismatic performance - is so high though that it’s hard to think of Titan Force as anything other than a splendid album.