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Dreamscape Pt. 1 - Soaring High - 94%

Xeogred, January 9th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2006, CD, Cult Metal Classics Records

A little over 10 years ago I unearthed the legendary 1984 release Ample Destruction from Jag Panzer. To this day it easily remains one of the undisputed champions of all classic metal under my watch with omega star vocalist Harry Conklin at the forefront. Naturally I connected the dots and followed along his career to see what else he has been a part of and eventually came upon this band Titan Force. Truth be told I actually wrote up an average scored review for this album and maybe the follow up back then and wasn't too impressed. As always, time is the real ultimate test and Titan Force has become part of the nonstop frequent rotation over the years and won't be leaving the main deck. Back then I was more about the thrashier speedy side of classic USPM, Liege Lord and Omen were my main course, paying little attention to the rest. Despite the fact that I have always been a fan of Queensryche since I was a kid, it was only a matter of time before the more melodic and progressive side of USPM would sink in.

EP and The Warning era Queensryche would arguably be the best comparison to be made here but I wouldn't take it too literally. There are many imitators of classic Queensryche, but some bands play it too safe, or slip too far into one genre littering an album with way too many ballads, or some thrash without much variety, or the experimentation just simply falls flat. Titan Force take some of those blueprints and inject their own style into it, with an Iron Maiden styled emphasis on a more aggressive guitar sound and amazing leads and solos. Topped off with the addition of an excellent and uniquely sounding production, Titan Force truly sound like their own thing entirely and I actually struggle to think of many comparisons. Think somewhere alongside Fates Warning and Crimson Glory.

One huge aspect I really love about this album is how uplifting it is both lyrically and how the songs unfold, it's a very empowering and energetic release from start to finish. Instantly perks me up if I'm ever in a dark place. Very ironic considering Harry Conklin joined the band right after leaving the devil worshiping Satan's Host! I really cannot emphasis enough just how amazing this production and mix is, everything is crystal clear while it has that 80's cliff side sound to it when Conklin and the music starts to soar into the skies with sublime freedom. Breathtaking and a tone you can never replicate again. While many bands were starting to sweat as the 1990's crept in and tried to appeal to the masses with lame ballads or radio friendly tracks, even Judas Priest themselves, go grunge, or whatever... Titan Force here didn't give a damn. They weren't about to dumb down anything and the whole package feels like a perfectly crafted tale that they wanted to play and tell. The variety and technical prowess from each band member is constantly off the charts, yet I could almost easily say that this album is an incredible case of "less is more". Never do any of these tracks try to drone away into a tech/prog mess or overstay their welcome. Something you can't always say for bands that go for this style.

Right out of the gate Chase Your Dreams should utterly blow your face off. Incredible guitar rhythms dazzle the entire track, the soft hypnotic gang vocals chanting the chorus and other lines in the background, the bass dances to the front, the drums keep it all prodding along, razor sharp leads slice things up, all the while Conklin showcases that this is going to be his greatest performance of all time, or rather one of the greatest metal singing performances ever recorded. The precision in his delivery is perfection, maturity since his performance on Ample Destruction. He has now completely mastered his gifted ability and sings his heart out, with an enormous range only few could dream of reaching, throwing a commanding punch that demands attention with the dimensions of his emotions displayed. From start to finish this entire album is a melodic prog USPM masterpiece with no weak cracks anywhere in sight. I don't even care for instrumentals much thesedays, but Will-O' The Wisp completely rules. Many fans may agree however, if there is that one ultimate track, it's New Age Rebels. It's the most epic, metalized, happy track I've ever heard. Chills.

Still a hidden gem for whatever reason, this entire band definitely deserves more awareness. Fans of early Queensrcyhe, Fates Warning, Crimson Glory, Heir Apparent, Liege Lord, Vicious Rumors, and awesome classic USPM in general should be all over this one. Just remember, it might need some time to click! But when it does, it will dig its anchors into your bones.

The Tyrant delivers again.... - 93%

SoldierofSteel, November 8th, 2008

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.

Shining in the crossroads - 90%

Starkweather222000, October 4th, 2007

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.

A refreshing surprise! - 88%

fluffy_ferret, September 7th, 2007

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.