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Living The (Foolish) Curbside Dream... - 70%

CHAIRTHROWER, September 19th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, Digital, Church Recordings (Bandcamp)

This gloomy Thursday morning, Vancouver's local "24 Hours" cabbage leaf i.e. daily news rag reports (how) Trump is dead set on revoking California's authority regarding strict(er) auto emissions (for years, now, excluded from Federal regulations)...Well, I'm no gas expert - not that kind, anyhow - but so long as His "foolish" Eminence doesn't encroach on the Golden State's Haunt and Fortress, of Fresno and Whittier, we'll be just fine.

Presidential footnote aside, take a gander at the split between these mildly divergent hay-makers, released on Friday the 13th, digitally on bandcamp as well as archival 7" inch vinyl under the grass-roots Church Recordings, a swiftly budding label bequeathed by none other than Haunt's pioneering juggler of vox, bass and guitar, himself, Trevor William Church - who went from manning his innocuous solo project by his lonesome to spearheading a heady, household-named quartet in for the long haul while possessed of a vociferously melodious bent.

Hence, "A Fool's Paradise" begins in cyber-techno-ish power metal fashion akin to Poland's Aquilla and, quite auspiciously, the Spanish & Polish duo Chaos Over Cosmos (whose recent self-titled LP is wowing more than a few heads) before stepping on the, er, gas - very much like the expedient fluttering/shredding (style) achieved this January past on Haunt's stunning Mosaic Vision EP, in addition to March's widely acclaimed If Icarus Could Fly sophomore full-length. Nevertheless, I've a big issue with the ultra-raw, high-end dominating production/mixing as it places Church's wistfully winsome and gregarious chants too high above the guitars whilst the battery suffers greatly from a muffled, dampened resonance. Saving the day, however, is a waspishly scintillating/neck-bracing thirty second solo three minutes in - a fondly revered Haunt hallmark, so to squeak.

Fortress's slightly shorter "On The Streets Again" smacks of comparative old school acts such as Volture, Loanshark (either the Finn or Spanish incarnation) and Savager, for instance. Thematically, when talking 'bout "streets", the average trad metal fan is invariably brought back to Traveler's classic "Street Machine", or perhaps Night Demon (of Ventura)'s grit n' survival tribunes "Heavy Metal Heat", "Life On The Run", "On Your Own"... Hell, even Cobra-from-Peru's vituperative "When I Walk The Streets" comes to mind (once again!).

Sadly, general rifferage to "On The Streets Again" proves a tad prosaic, not to mention far cry from the gang's stand-out creativity as well as killer performance on its titular albeit brief four-track EP from late last year. Regardless, the lead ax-work of guitarists Fili Bibiano and Eddie-Jonathan Bravo slakes solo nerds betwixt (International) borders and beyond. As usual, front man Chris Scott Nunez waxes stratospheric and eloquent with his knavishly sky-high, if not overwhelming, combat cries. That said, I sincerely hope Fortress doesn't turn out to be a repetitive one-trick pony, seeing as this here selection feels rather contrived - a blatant cut-out from said debut (in other, strongly plaintive, words, a laconic cop-out).

Listening to reason, splits are often sketchy gauges of a band's standing, girth (!) and integrity. Therefore, although Haunt/Fortress' "A Fool's Paradise/On The Streets Again" merits a despondently annotated C-, consider it, nevertheless, worthy of token, principled perusal.