It’s no secret that I love the traditional heavy metal revival. However, it’s also no secret that it’s becoming hard to find something worthwhile coming out of that impetus; the claws of repetition and carbon copies have already sunk deep into this nascent, returning sub-genre. The main problem I have with a lot of the stuff I end up listening to in traditional heavy metal is that it’s satisfied with just reiterating on things that have already been done and calling it a day. There’s no personality to the music; I couldn’t pick a track out from a lineup if I didn’t know what the band name was. Fortunately, there are still bands who are stubborn enough to insist on taking the old formulas and giving their own spin on things: Lunar Shadow, Eternal Champion, and Sumerlands spring to mind. To this illustrious roster we can now also add Haunt.
These Fresno natives are, first and foremost, grounded in the sounds we’ve all come to expect from the New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal; the guitar tones on their upcoming release, Burst Into Flame, are bright and prominent, the bass is galloping and aggressive and the vocals are high pitched. But in the vocals is where the differences start. Their timbre is far from what you’d first expect; it has a more husky tone to it, a fullness of character that’s more pronounced than just shrieks and high notes. It comes perhaps from a more psychedelic rock place and injects Haunt’s music with a lot of verve and freshness. Second track “Crystal Ball” is a really good example of this: the instrumentation is standard but very well accomplished and written. The main riffs goes hard, but there are plenty of hooks to keep you interested.
But the vocals is what adds a lot of the track’s spice; both the lead line and the backing vocals (used sparingly but effectively) create a weirder vibe to the track, more varied and unique. This makes sure that, as you listen to the album again and again, you will definitely know it’s Haunt. Add to this incredibly accomplished instrumental work (some of the leads on “Crystal Ball” and the way the guitar tracks work together are amazing and that solo), interesting musical and lyrical writing (“Heroes”, further to the back of the album, is a highlight as far as the lyrics go, exploring the oft-beleaguered concept of war from an interesting perspective) and you have one hell of an album.
If you also take into account the obvious dedication these guys have to the genre they’re referencing (listen to the opening notes of “Reflectors” and tell me you can’t hear that love shining through), you end up with what’s sure to become an essential album in the New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal. Burst Into Flame manages to skillfully balance what a lot of other NWOTHM can’t seem to grasp and that’s the balance between homage, repetition and innovation. It adds enough of its own touches to the already established formula, which allows it to really reach out and grab you rather than just being a curio or a “hey, remember this?” kind of deal.
Burst Into Flame will be released on August 10th. Head on over to the Bandcamp link above to pre-order it!