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With the zenith in sight. - 80%

GrizzlyButts, June 8th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, 12" vinyl, Shadow Kingdom Records (Limited edition)

The very concept of being overtly ambitious amidst clichéd parable of over-zealous youth being portrayed as mentally deranged and destined to fail is a product of severely enforced generational control, and pronounced jealousy, among all walks of life. It allows the genetically predispositioned, the gifted, and the outrageous to be stuffed and strangled down to the level of societal expectations and in no part of the civilized world does a young man escape the limitations imposed by others. Class, caste, order and conformity are inescapable damnation for the exploding minds of youths the world over and therein lies the torment of every new generation. Boned with wax the feathered wing is destined to crumble under any extreme unless the extremophile adapts their very being to thrive within amazing highs or debilitating lows and there are assuredly those archaea among us; Otherwise the existence of a band like Haunt, or predecessor Beastmaker, would appear forever freakish in their dauntless ambition and relentlessly prepared output where a new and glorious adaptation appears every several months. ‘If Icarus Could Fly’ is a personal defiance by design, an immediate and crucial evolution for Haunt that finds the band doubly electric in their exploration of exquisitely executed 80’s heavy metal and hard rock guitar finesse atop serenades to future-seekers and those living with a great weight upon their winged shoulders.

Confusion over release dates, street dates, early digital releases and such aside… In any part of the world most folks have had a full two months to dissect, feel, and explore ‘If Icarus Could Fly’ thanks to a mid-March digital release. I’ve abstained with my thoughts for quite some time for the sake of celebrating the physical release of the album. Not to appear pompous or righteous but because I believe there is something to be said for enjoying what is unarguably a ‘retro’-futuristic heavy metal album on a physical format. There is perhaps no clear rival for Fresno, Californian troupe Haunt in the realm of modern musicians tackling the works of early 80’s hard rock/heavy metal innovators and that is stating it a bit too plainly in lieu of how vibrant the quintet’s take on classic heavy music is. To physically grasp the record, smell its dustless folds and give it a good spin is an important part of taking in an album that, despite any negative connotations you might feel, is retro as hell. If you thought Trevor William Church (Beastmaker, Church Recordings) had nailed the Ozzy Osbourne-meets-Thin Lizzy guitar harmony-o-rama on ‘Burst Into Flames’ (2018) and then outdid himself twofold on the ‘Mosaic Vision’ (2019) EP back in January then bump that multiple up to thrice on ‘If Icarus Could Fly’.

Today we might remember the ghost of Randy Rhoads‘ Flying V with too-brightly rose colored earplugs with his harmonious neoclassically inspired shredding and unmistakable tone. To be realistic, with respect to the legendary rock musician, it came and went so quickly never to be successfully iterated upon within any mainstream capacity since. It makes great sense that we see so many children born in the 90’s turning back to the biggest works of the 80’s with wonder, despite those of us born in the 80’s still cringing at our childhood photos and memories. It was a glossy, freakish age of protest and outrage from the outside looking in. I suppose if you don’t yet understand the dangers of cocaine addiction and alcohol abuse the music of the 80’s is probably far more life-affirming than much of the self-hating 90’s, too. To top it all off the guitarists were incredible front-to-back, even down the most morally bereft poofy-haired LA rock bands. Rhoads‘ contributions are admired, celebrated and expanded upon by Church within Haunt to be sure (“Winds of Destiny”, “Run and Hide”) but there are hints of the early dual guitar driven Iron Maiden years (“If Icarus Could Fly”) and the White/Gorham records from Thin Lizzy in the early 80’s as well (“Ghosts”, “Clarion”). Church‘s vocal register makes this even more clear as he sticks within a very rigid Lynott-esque vocal design with quadruple layered harmonization behind most every line. Those sleepy vocal and the shockingly skilled guitar-forward compositions make for a sound that is emotionally understated but directly thrilling at once.

Looking back on my slightly confused review for ‘Mosaic Vision’ I will say that some of those songs might’ve been smartly traded out for a select few same-sounding tracks included on ‘If Icarus Could Fly’. Sure, “Clarion” and “Defender” are not out of place in the full listen but they’re somewhat inconsequential for an album that could use some sort of bold shift in mood, pace or style. Church‘s guitar work is so thrilling it was easy to (initially) overlook the somewhat repetitive nature of some of the song structures within. A ballad, a ripping speed metal instrumental, a dueling solo grind, or an out of left field “Planet Caravan” moment will be that extra level of variation that’ll take such an enthusiastic record an extra notch above. To be fair, Haunt are already a step above the usual comparisons (Cauldron, Skull Fist or Night Demon) anymore thanks to the beautifully adept lead guitar work that sells the shit out of this album. There is yet room for improvement and refined iteration all the same and I’d be surprised if the next cuts aren’t on their way to done already.

Anthemic songwriting and virtuosic guitar work are generally enough to carry any traditional heavy metal album and in this sense Haunt are a few steps above average despite a relatively low range of variation on the full listen. On one hand I could often listen to ‘If Icarus Could Fly’ four or five times in full without hesitation or skipping a single track, on the other hand I’d likely put the record down for a week after. I don’t know if that speaks to my own strange listening habits or to the record itself but I found it highly repeatable. A slick and entertaining heavy metal album that is easily picked up and enjoyed is an easy recommendation and Haunt have topped themselves with ‘Icarus Could Fly’. Highly recommended. For preview I’d suggest jumping right to my favorite track Haunt have written so far “Winds of Destiny” as it bleeds ‘Diary of a Madman’ of any remaining blood, and then the inspirational duo of “Run and Hide” & “It’s In My Hands”.

Attribution: https://grizzlybutts.com/2019/05/15/haunt-if-icarus-could-fly-2019-review/

Soar Alongside Haunt’s Brand New Set of Heavy Metal Anthems - 85%

MetalMegalomania, April 29th, 2019

While If Icarus Could Fly is undoubtedly rooted within the realm of heavy metal, there are a lot of other elements at play here which contribute to Haunt’s sound. The motivational attitudes and song structures of numbers like “Run and Hide” harken back to a simpler time when the newfound distortion-driven energy of early hard rock was encapsulated within songs surrounding themes of rebellion and calls for action. Of course metal music has taken the foundations created by songs like “Balls to the Wall” and “Back in Black” and morphed them into twisted designs within the realms of death and black metal, but one thing remains the same: the metaphorical energy of screaming guitars, energetic drumming, and driven vocal styles sticks with this music, whether you’re listening to Thin Lizzy or Torture Rack.

Haunt very much continues this encapsulation with the song structures, chord progressions, and vocal signatures presented on If Icarus Could Fly. Even the ballad-like “It’s In My Hands” feels somewhat inspirational to the ears, as the natural emotional simplicity of Haunt’s music oozes from this track the best, I feel. Among other things, the cosmic frontal guitar riffing, steady drum beats, and operatic yet driven vocals keep this half-hour long album trotting along track after track, with no real snoozers or disappointments to be found.

The album’s thematic presence is surely one of its pull factors, at least to the English nerd hiding beneath the bellows of my thick skin. I’ve always been passively interested in allusions to the likes of those to Icarus, albeit my knowledge of these things doesn’t tend to scratch past the surface level. Unfortunately, Haunt’s doesn’t either, but this will be a negligible factor for most.

If Icarus Could Fly is evidently built around the Greek tale of Icarus, the man famous for being the reason the expression “don’t fly too close to the sun” was coined. Icarus’ Father became stuck with Icarus as the two trapped a minotaur in their constructed labyrinth, unfortunately trapping themselves as well. Icarus’ Father fashioned a winged contraption out of wax and feathers for his son to use to escape the maze with, famously warning him not to fly too close to the sun nor too close to the ocean, as both would result in peril. Of course, we’re here talking about this story, so obviously something bad happened to our air-bound friend. Icarus did not heed his Father’s instructions, and did indeed fly too close to the sun, causing his feathers to burn and wax to melt, resulting in him drowning in the waters below, now titled the Icarian Sea.

Haunt builds the album in question around this premise, albeit rather sloppily in some cases. If Icarus Could Fly seems to revolve around themes of pride, love longing, and heroic action, all ultimately relating in some shape or form to the human condition and miraculous connection. I don’t know, really, that seemed to sum it all up but now reading that doesn’t really make any sense, nor does it mean much. From what I’ve gathered, the Icarus tale serves as a metaphor for not pushing yourself beyond fathomable limits, and serves as an ultimate warning of youthful recklessness. Digging into the story’s scripture reveals that Icarus seemed to dismiss his Father’s warnings.

However, Haunt’s album features a trio of tracks revolving around emotional longing, or at least infatuation of female deities, and defenders in the final hour. I’ve looked through the lyrics, and the band seem to dismiss the true meanings of Icarus’ tale. Furthermore, the one track directly referencing Icarus’ story, the title track, basically reads as a Wikipedia summary; I would know, where do you think I’m getting all of the above information? While the vocalist’s driven and borderline emotional singing style excuses the simple lyrics, you can’t help but wonder why the band didn’t delve deeper into the themes of which their album title is based around. There’s some mythical content here, some emotional love tales, and songs revolving around heroes saving the lost, and while these all kind of touch upon Greek mythology and its general thematic principles, I feel like there was a lost opportunity here. Perhaps the polar nature of this album is meant to be interpreted as a notion that everything will be alright and that mistakes can be made (I’m referencing “Defender” which describes an inhuman individual of the lifesaver kind), but that just isn’t what the Icarus tale is about; and the album is called “If Icarus Could Fly!” I guess I just would have liked more of a historical lesson rather than a surface level context.

All in all, the songs presented on If Icarus Could Fly are all strong and complementary in some shape or form. If you liked the Luminous Eyes EP, as well as the band’s previous full-length, this new one will be right up your alley. These are some great heavy metal jams fixed with a tinge of ‘70s hard rock mentality, and I really dig it. I would have enjoyed some further exploration of the Icarus theme, but I guess its all just heavy metal in the end.

https://metalmegalomania.com/

Fly As High As The Sun - 95%

Sweetie, April 12th, 2019

Haunt are a band that I only picked up midway through last year, and their album Burst Into Flame is what really captured my attention. They’re mostly known for a steadier and traditional brand of heavy metal, but I’ll be damned if the follow up doesn’t start on a more powerful note. If Icarus Could Fly is the title of their most recent effort, and it builds on the same heavy foundation while packing a slightly harder punch.

“Run And Hide” won’t be subtle with this in the slightest, as it introduces the ride with speed metal riffs and solos that shred through the night. If this isn’t already enough to prove a point, crunchier tones are added to the guitars, which induces slightly more threatening waves being added. Don’t head into this expecting a thrash attack, because it’s still a very steady and melodic release, staying clean in the vocal department. There’re just clearly some heavier innovations sneaking in.

The fabulous level of licks didn’t disappear. “Cosmic Kiss” packs every gap with guitar noodles that stick very well and lay atop the buzzing rhythms perfectly. The title track also brings on the same aesthetic but with higher fret-attacks, with a side of stomping grooves. One of the gripes I had with the previous effort is that the mix wasn’t distributed very well, and the vocals needed a bit more oomph. If Icarus Could Fly fixes both, and then some. The layers come through even better in “Ghosts” because of the harmonizing dual guitar work, and the drum beat here is off the charts.

“Ghosts” is my favorite track not only because of the layering, but the vocals hold so much emotion. The record contains a lot of pensive passages, some that feel rather sad, despite the harder effort put into the writing here. Of course, this can be used to invoke more positive emotions such as in “Clarion,” which injects the heavier doses to ride alongside perfectly. The bridges and solo here are easily the most threatening part of the album, as there’s an unsettling feeling of doom caked on.

Really, I don’t know how Haunt put out such a ridiculously swell effort in this short of time since the last album. Hell, there was even an EP dropped in the meantime known as Mosaic Vision. The level of momentum that this band has and their ability to work so many ideas into a one canvas absolutely amazes me. Managing to pour out so much in a short release that hardly touches thirty minutes is a talent in its own merits. If Icarus Could Fly is what you need in your life.

Originally written for Antichrist Magazine

Back to the future - 80%

Andreas_Hansen, April 6th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, Digital, Independent

Since now two years, California-based Haunt gave themselves the mission to furnish us heavy metal EPs, singles or albums whose aim is to make us travel a few decades back in the past. And it is clear that each one of their works hit the bullseye: from their promising "Luminous Eyes" until the very recent EP "Mosaic Vision", passing through the excellent "Burst into Flames", their discography seems to quickly get thicker, at a rate of one or two releases per year. One thing could be then noticed: first, that the influence of bands like Angel Witch or Iron Maiden is primordial, and... that the band likes to repeat itself. Indeed, the deliberately old-school production having its nostalgia effect, why would the band bother to change a formula that works so well? Let's see, with this album, that once again there is no difference with what has already been made in the past.

I think that it would be relevant to start by speaking about this production because, after all, it is the core of Haunt. The guitars have a very muffled, almost dirty sound, that reminds the first streaks of bad luck of the first heavy metal bands when they used to show up into the world of the sound engineers. However, there are no rhythmic imperfections - the guitars are playing at the same time without shift -, a default that used to serve as a justification for the bands to not succeeded in producing correctly the album - where's the link? - and which today still serves the feelings of the most nostalgics by the "authentic" touch that it brings, in a world where everything is so much modified by computers that the music might lose its soul and emotions - hello, dear Dragonforce. Haunt says us "no, we could play correctly thanks to software and practicing and still raise feelings through our music".

The instrumental set appears as being refined, or at least, clearly simplified. Here, Haunt plays the speed metal card, with a total length of thirty minutes, which is extremely short, even for heavy metal - its predecessor ran seven minutes longer. The new orientation is confirmed during the listening: honors are made to the famous tremolo pickings, the trump card of the musicians playing speed and power metal. Moreover, the instrumental pattern is even more simplified - maybe too much: the first major flaw of this album is its tendency to repeat too often the same formula: an introduction with one rhythmic guitar and two lead guitars playing a short melody and the song starts with a verse. Almost every title is made in that same way, which makes them look more or less all the same. Scales change, though, and thus, emotions too: "Cosmic Kiss", "Clarion" and "Run and Hide" are dynamic, joyful or even epic, whereas "If Icarus Could Fly", "Defender" and "Ghost" are slower and more melancholic. Solos are a bit more ambitious, the guitarists playing now more tapping than they used to - like in "It's in my Hands", "Run and Hide"), and they also multiply: there are at least two of them in each song, especially in the eponymous track. The global riffing stays correct and diversified (we wouldn't expect less from a band that has already proved its worth like Haunt) with some excellent moments like the main riff of the last song "Defender", full in third chords, reinforcing this melodic side, and the verse and the instrumental part of "Run and Hide" or "Ghosts", where we also found this same type of chords.

On a personal note, this album could have been way better with clearer compositions that don't make us think something like "this sounds like the previous track" as it is too often the case here. Satisfying our tastes in a genre where already has already been made thousands of time is a hard task and the smallest flaw, especially regarding the originality, could be disastrous. Hopefully, Haunt have more than one trick up their sleeve and it would be harsh to judge their album on this sole point, as the compositions would please the most 80s-nostalgics of us. In spite of a very short track-length average (three minutes), the band manages to impose a very vintage atmosphere whose talent to produce it is not any more to prove. The singing of Trevor William Church, so unique thanks to its tessitura mixed with a whole bunch of oldschool-like effects, would plunge the nostalgic somebody back in its tender youth.

A second successful album that is added to the flawless discography of an almost unique band.

Originally written for Thrashocore:
https://www.thrashocore.com/

Fly as High as The Sun - 80%

Twisted_Psychology, April 2nd, 2019

Just as the Mosaic Visions EP predicted, Haunt’s second full-length adds some dazzle to their classic metal template. While 2018’s Burst into Flame was comparable to the early 80s antics of Priest and Maiden, If Icarus Could Fly seems to look further down that decade’s latter half. You won’t find any Turbo/Somewhere in Time-style synths or echo effects on here, but the glossy vocal layering in conjunction with the guitar’s sheen gives me a similar vibe.

Ozzy Osbourne’s albums with Jake E. Lee may actually be a better frame of reference as far as this album’s musicianship goes. The guitar patterns are executed in the same erratic choppiness that gave “Bark at the Moon” its spark while the vocals’ urgent moans are right in line with the Ozz. That said, the rhythm section’s hustle has more in common with power metal than their idols’ more radio-friendly tendencies.

But while Haunt’s songwriting method has always honed on basic catchy rockers, this album might’ve benefitted from a bit more variety. The songs revolve around mostly similar tempos, resulting in some interchangeability that is only made distinct by the sci-fi aesthetic on “Cosmic Kiss” or the title track’s mythological theme. Fortunately, it’s not too much of an issue as “It’s in My Hands” and “Ghosts” are worthy staples and the half hour total runtime ensures replay value.

In line with the album’s metaphor, If Icarus Could Fly is a good album that might’ve been greater if it had spread its wings out wider. The pristine style gives the album a unique edge compared to their peers and the performances support it well, but some more adventurous songwriting would’ve helped take it to the next level. Fans of Haunt’s other works will find this just as enjoyable and just about any classic metal listener can consider this a worthy half hour. I’m sure Church has the next five albums already written and recorded so we might as well enjoy the ride!

Highlights:
“It’s in My Hands”
“Ghosts”
“If Icarus Could Fly”

Originally published at http://indymetalvault.com