Peppered among the indie rock sets of SouthSounds 2016, one local underground group, Black Titan, used the Lagniappe Mobile Bay Showcase to add followers to its growing flock. In the midday shadow of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Black Titan waged a personal war filled with a heavy mix of doom and stoner metal. With a set featuring instrumental and vocal change-ups, this four-piece electrified the audience with its furious style of rock ‘n’ roll.
Now Black Titan is preparing to wage a two-week metallic tour through the Southeast and beyond. The band’s ammunition will consist of tracks from its new debut album, “The Bag is in the River.” The organized chaos of this album is almost a reflection of Black Titan’s short history.
Black Titan and its trademark sound began as a concept. At that time, drummer Clayton Bates and guitarist Ian Taylor were roommates.
Taylor is best known for his mellow shoegaze creations in the local band Sunshine Factory. However, his former life in St. Petersburg, Florida, included time spent in the local punk and metal scene. He’d grown tired of shoegaze and wanted to return to something heavier.
“I never really stopped listening to any of that stuff,” Taylor said. “I listened to a lot of thrash metal and grindcore. I actually played in a black metal band.” Meanwhile vocalist Allin Killpatrick and Bates were conceiving a new band project that focused on the slow, driving doom metal sound. Eventually, Taylor entered the dialogue and took interest. With Taylor and Bates under the same roof, Black Titan began to awaken.
Inspired by bands such as Sleep and Black Sabbath, the trio’s conversations gave birth to morning practice sessions between Taylor and Bates. The time had come to add vocals, but Killpatrick was reluctant to become the charismatic front man this music deserved.
“[Bates] didn’t ask me,” Killpatrick said. “He made me. He and Ian came to me and was like, ‘We’re starting a band, and you’re singing. That’s the end of the story. Just do it.’”
The first practice consisted of Taylor, Bates and Killpatrick. The trio began bringing their ideas to life. Along the way, they would trade instruments to see the differences. While the group is known for switching things up on stage, the foundation had Killpatrick on vocals, Bates on drums and Taylor on guitar. This one practice resulted in a majority of the songs found on Black Titan’s self-titled EP.
Black Titan’s next step was to find a bassist to complete this metal mix. Taylor, Killpatrick and Bates had Jimmy Lee in mind. Much like Taylor, Lee has a punk background but is also known for his work with bands such as Port Wine Stain, The Colonel Dixies and Underhill Family Orchestra. Until Black Titan, Lee had been out of the music game for nearly a year.
The band held auditions and invited Lee along with three other local bassists. Bates and Killpatrick will admit they didn’t expect Lee to show. Lee will admit that the only reason he went to the audition was to kill time that day. According to Killpatrick, Lee showed up, plugged in and instantly fell into Black Titan’s sound. Even the other bassists in the room were convinced.
After he made his membership official, Lee became just as consumed with the band’s sound as the rest of the band, and began adding his own touches to their songs. With Lee in place, Black Titan had the perfect mix of personalities and their influences to push forward with this project.
“With the possible exception of Clay, we’re a bunch of punk rockers trying to play metal,” Lee said. “Three punk rockers and one guy into prog [rock] with a Buddy Rich tattoo.”
Black Titan’s self-titled EP gathered the band a loyal following. However, its full-length debut “The Bag is in the River” will add to their following and strengthen seasoned fans’ dedication to their sound. The album takes its title from Killpatrick’s visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Among the variety of paintings from famous artists, Killpatrick was taken by a piece that was the words “The cat is in the bag, and the bag is in the river” set on a white background. The band took these words on as a motto. For them, the words mean totally dedicating to something and expecting nothing in return. This phrase is the philosophy that drives the band and represents this collection of their music.
“‘The cat’s in the bag’ is an expression of ‘Yeah, we got this,’” Bates explained. “Then in the same breath, the bag is in the river. You’ve got it together, but whoops, there it goes. We’ve worked so hard on all this, but we don’t know what’s going to become of it. We’re just gonna send it up the river and see what happens.”
This album was recorded at Taylor’s Redemption Studios and produced by both Taylor and Lee, with Taylor taking on engineering duties. According to Killpatrick, this duo was very demanding in the studio. However, Killpatrick also says they forced him to take his vocals into new dimensions.
With red lights and candles blazing, the group began putting together songs in a way that was both organic and cooperative. Songs such as “Fashion Sense” grew from a sad and frustrated Killpatrick declaring his suicidal tendencies were not a match for his fashion sense, which means suicide is hard when one is unable to purchase the belt for hanging. From there, lyrics that include “You can’t hang yourself with an expensive belt if you can’t pay the rent” exploded into reality. The end result is a mix of machine-gun rhythms set in front of a tidal wave of metal.
Killpatrick brought the line “There is no truth in the sky” and a basic riff to Lee with the request that Lee sing the song. Lee built lyrics around the phrase. The remainder of the band molded and shaped the riff to create “No Truth.” This dynamic track begins in the melancholy and finishes in fury.
“We spent a lot time with that song,” Bates said. “When we ran out of rehearsal space, we started practicing at The [Blind] Mule. I remember several nights of tossing guitars and screaming. I don’t know if it comes across that way.”
With a new album in hand, Black Titan will be taking new tracks to Savannah, Ocean Springs, Austin, Beaumont and many other locales. In addition to the music, Black Titan has a secret weapon that can only be experienced in a live setting. Its live performances are high-energy experiences that force the audience to become involved in the music.
According to Taylor, this aspect of Black Titan completes its musical concoction. As far as tour objectives or any other future goals, Black Titan is content to keep on creating its music and take advantage of the opportunities that come its way.
“We’re a very hungry band,” Bates said. “We’re all guys in our 30s or pushing 30, but the drive and the hunger does not go away.”
“That’s combined with the thought of, ‘Don’t drop the ball,’” Lee added.