Photo by Pint Bottle Photography
When Montgomery, Alabama’s Hail the Titans played their first show expectant fans were confused. As the band plowed through song after thunderous song of blistering, riff-fueled prog and dynamic post-rock, many in the audience kept wondering — where were the vocals? After all, each member of the group — guitarists Josh Carples and Adam Davila, bassist Wes Andrews and drummer Trey Baldwin — had already established themselves as singers through stints in past bands and solo projects. But as that first show rumbled to a close not a single lyric was uttered.
For the group, this was not an act of willful intent; they never deliberately set out to be an instrumental band. But early into their first practice, the four longtime friends had a feeling this would be their path. “During that first practice we wrote a song and things just felt right,” Carples explains. “We clicked. We didn’t know where we were headed musically, but we liked where it was going.”
As it turns out, where it was going was down an ambitious road that tries to reconcile the patient sculpting and spacious ambiance of post-rock with the hard-charging aggression and spastic rhythmic flurries of metal-inflected prog rock. It’s heavy — sometimes ferociously so — but there’s also an impressive level of technicality to their songwriting, as well as a brooding atmospheric quality that helps temper all those fiery guitar runs and blazing tempo changes. In the end, it’s a much more adventurous route than the one they would have taken had they engaged a traditional vocalist.
“I think that not having vocals pushes us to experiment more with the music,” says Carples, “especially in the areas of unique sounds or song structures. It leaves the songs more open to individual interpretation. Rather than deciphering meanings in lyrics, we hope that people will get into the music and appreciate the energy, passion or emotions that it may bring.”
Although the band is relatively new (they played that first show just last October), they have already made some waves opening for the likes of Maserati and Jucifer. They have also made a concerted effort to establish themselves regionally, playing in as many cities in the Southeast as possible. Still, booking shows hasn’t always been easy. Montgomery may be the capital and Alabama’s second largest city, but the scene remains fairly small. “I wouldn’t say that it is difficult to get shows,” Carples explains, “it’s just that there are not many venues that cater to original music. The scene seems to always come in waves — there are periods where there seems to be a lot going on, then there are periods where it might be considered to be on life support.”
Fortunately, Montgomery is currently experiencing an upswing in artistic interest and participation, which has given the scene a much needed shot in the arm. “Things are really looking up!” Carples exclaims. “I have noticed a lot more support among bands, a lot more camaraderie, more interest, more opportunities, and more people being open-minded about new, original music and art. I hope it continues to grow.”
This increased focus on local arts and music has made it the ideal time for Hail the Titans to release its debut album, a fact the band hopes to take full advantage of. Entitled Hymns of Mare Nostrum, the eight-track effort is due out sometime next month. From the onset, the goal of the record was to replicate as closely as possible the group’s fierce live sound. To accomplish this the four recorded as much of it live as they possibly could without the use of a click track. And yet, despite this emphasis on energy and immediacy, the band still found plenty of room to experiment in the studio, layering many of the tracks with different sounds to help inject additional textures into the music.
“One song has 55 recorded tracks, including a metal shopping cart, birds, a toaster, a Jeep ignition. If it made noise, we tried to find a way to put it on the album, and we are pleased with how it turned out.”
Stream the debut single from Hymns of Mare Nostrum, “Cesium,” in the player below.
Hail the Titans will perform tonight at Picaflor Studio. Headlining the show will be Jon Van Panther. PlanetRAWK also play in support. The show is being presented by Rock Science Revival. Doors open at 9pm. $5 gets you in.