Esoteric black metal, in the vein of Deathspell Omega, Absu, and Melechesh, has always fascinated me. These bands hold on and speak of a secret I’m eager to learn about. Esotericism and black metal go hand in hand often enough, they’ve done so since the beginning of the culture in Norway. Mayhem had heavy doses of esoteric philosophy fused with their Satanic messages and glorification of violence and death. It was one of the things that made them unique at the time. As time wore on though, the esoteric nature of Mayhem and black metal in general started to stagnate, becoming more a figure head than anything with real substance. Absu, Deathspell Omega and others forced black metal (or at least those that might claim to be involved in the “mysteries of black metal”) into renaissance. Many bands abandoned the image for a simpler “evil” image because it did require much thought and seemed more appealing to the pseudo intellectual masses that began populating black metal’s fandom. While those fans moved on to industrial black metal, esoteric black metal was able to refocus itself as a subgenre. Bands like Titaan and their latest release “Kadingir” are a result of such focus.
Titaan is a mystery of a band, hailing from the gods know where with a single bugle member performing all the music. It’s hard, really, to say whether the band is black metal with lots of ambient or ambient with a lot of black metal. Either way there isn’t enough of either, and I mean that in a good way. I liked the release but I felt as though the music was telling me something I just couldn’t grasp it. The album, named after the gateway of the gods in Sumerian mythology, serves as a concept album, death and rebirth and becoming one with the cosmos itself. Without being Lovecraftian in the slightest, the music has a cosmic horror like feel, though that has more to do with the ambient side of the album rather than the black metal side. It’s an amoral, titanic (no pun intended) sound that goes beyond atmospheric black metal or cosmic black metal. It’s grounded on earth yet the music offers glimpses of things beyond this reality.
Titaan is more than a simple esoteric black metal band. There are elements of brutal death metal, that slightly off kilter, freight train running off the tracks sound and production while maintaining black metal integrity and musicianship. The vocals are distinctly death growls but they have a more sinister tone that the typical burp and growl sound of death metal (that’s not at all disparaging to death metal), another instance of black metal fusing with death metal on the album. The guitar work, while not overwhelmingly memorable is solid and fast, often coming out of nowhere and tapering off without notice. It’s rather jarring to be honest but I think the purpose is to keep the listener on their toes so to speak, rather than allow them to half listen. Kadingir is an album that demands the listener’s full attention. It’s loud and bombastic on one side, yet surprisingly detailed and deep on the other. They follow in the footsteps of other occult black metal bands like Melechesh and Absu, using Sumerian and Babylonian mythology as a means to a philosophy, but rather than use the mythology as inspiration, Titaan uses it to convey a message. The philosophy of Titaan is a grand, and odd, mixture of Lovecraft, Nietzsche, and Crowley. It might not be for everyone, but those who enjoy it, such as myself, do so because we enjoy the possibilities it brings.