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'still haunting me' - 92%

Cosmic Mystery, January 27th, 2020

US based heavy metallers Haunt branded the scene with their enchanted leather on If Icarus Could Fly further giving the band a dominating pose among this age of throwback heavy/speed metal, thereby challenging the Canadians who have had the genre by a stranglehold since this renaissance thing started gaining traction. Seems like modern bands worldwide have a thing for old-school metal of all sorts. We see black metal going through a rebirth of sorts with the resurgence of the 2nd wave synth style, death metal’s past has been given one too many references by now and here we have NWOBHM or traditional/heavy/speed metal getting the dust wiped from the old supercharged dodge and a new paint job.

As one of the frontier bands of this new era of old metal, Haunt has always had an air of authority surrounding them since they debuted with the ep Luminous Eyes. It’s been a relatively rapid climb to the peak of the mountain since; justifiably, their debut full length showed multitudes that they were far more than one of the bunch, I mean they really did ‘Burst into Flame’ during 2018 rivaling the likes of Cauldron and the lamentably disbanded Spellcaster (USA). But the pool of conservative heavy metal is not without an ugly face in this age, the revival of the genre has sparked much mediocrity almost toppling over the quality stuff. Some records I’ve heard sound like straight-up rubbish given taglines like ‘organic’ to brush aside the blatantly disastrous music made. That’s the problem you’ll get within this renaissance era of traditional heavy metal, often a thin line drawn between sincerity and pathetic trendies. With Haunt there’s ‘No False Metal’ as Skull Fist put it, their consistency has been a thing of praise among many listeners; you'll rarely if not never find a traditionalist of heavy metal giving them the boot and that has a lot to do with the band’s loyalist yet qualitable output over the span of just 3+ years.

All that has come to be Haunt is present on Mind Freeze, whether they be agile tacticians of speed metal with rushing licks and rebellious choruses on ‘Hearts on Fire’, Fight or Flight’, or those kick back, wind in the hair, contemplative, though simultaneously mystical sessions with ‘Mind Freeze’, ‘Saviours of Man’ and ‘Have No Fear’, you'll be pleased to find that the well oiled and now ornamented underground heavy metal mechanics offer no less that their name has garnered them. It must be noted the vocals have taken a major leap up, It’s a hot and cold comparison to those heard on their past entries though they always seemed to be improving with every new album. I’d be dreadfully mistaken to slump them into the piles of trash produced in just under the span of a decade of NWOBHM resurgence and part of me wants to go above and beyond by nominating Haunt a top 5 position for best heavy metal bands formed in the last 12 or so years. I can’t award them that given I haven't heard nearly enough within the genre due to being so glued to the dissonance on the other side of metal.

They do a fantastic job of Heavy Metal on Mind Freeze, still parallel to older music they’ve made but improved (synth added) and a bit mature, they’ve grown up which is odd to say for such a young band blazing the pathway with their Iron Maiden influenced twin guitar occasions in ‘Divide and Conquer and smooth, moderately-pitched/cool/melancholic tempered vocals on the memorial-esque ‘Light the Beacon'. Yet I get the impression they may have reeled in some influences particularly those of Magic Dance off their album Vanishings notably in the choruses and melodies of the songs; makes you want to memorize all tracks word for word. Whatever it may be Haunt's music on Mind Freeze is blissful and beyond most stuff I've heard recently within NWOBHM.

The Frost Is Taking Over (How Long Will I Last?!) - 91%

CHAIRTHROWER, January 11th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, Digital, Shadow Kingdom Records

Shazam! Had I not prophesied, Rasputin-like, in the daze following Earth's 2017 Fall Equinox, a lone-wolf trad metal auspice by the prosaic but apt name of Haunt would, in (no) time, evolve into something approaching mythical, if not fondly lionized, cult-status? However, little did we know the Golden State venture would soon morph into a highly adaptive quarternity-for-eternity comprised of ambitiously synergetic rock n' rollers who favor the votive, (outer) spacial and ephemeral, judging from its respective, back-to-back debut LP and secondary EP, not to mention pair of split (fingered) singles alongside fellow revivalists Fortress - down the road in Whittier - and Great Britain's equally cosmic light bender, Seven Sisters. If these recent snippets assuaged no more than at a perfunctory level, rest assured yesterday's astrally occultic chef-d'oeuvre, as well as third full-length release, Mind Freeze, duly reclaims the rich, wicked melody and irrefutably fluttering, cathartic traction of said Phoenix Rising EP, albeit in a superlatively throttling, or effervescently diffuse, "rocket" manner.

Not to toot my own horn - or, if you like, spook my own ghost - but wasn't it clear, from Haunt's intimated, (Hans) solo-borne yet all-too brief Luminous Eyes EP, " something wicked" and flavorful, not merely apocryphal, was brewing down Fresno-way? Whilst languorously effused soupçons of Canada's Cauldron abound, so, still, do early 1980s Ozzy glaciality and ruefully driven mid-tempo flair - in particular, on the boldly retro & chthonian title track, "Gel de l'Esprit", where front scepter-man Trevor Church's disarmingly aphoristic and phantasmal chanting beguiles, ten-fold. To my (Reptilian) ears, he also brings to mind the iconic Double "O"'s charm and sagacity, however long-dissipated. (Just listen closely for the words...to your elated leisure, of course.)

Fans of sombre and cagilinously grooving outfits akin to Black Sites, Flight, Idle Hands, Sumerlands and In Solitude (RIP) will positively revel in winsomely liberating songs such as (opener) "Light the B(e)acon" - it was only a matter of time before Haunt hit on a thusly-named title - the above mentioned "Mind Freez(i)e", and further humdinger, the closing "Voyageur" (and no, we're not talking about Québec's cut-off and folksy provincial "ligne d'autobus"). In fact, the latter outlier's dominant minor-scaled tenure - more so, even, than among eight congruously gelid, yet as-energetic, counterparts. - allows for pronounced depth, not to mention ineluctable instant-replayability. Truly insane, though, is how swiftly and innocuously, in just over two years, Haunt has both carved, as well as reinvented, its identity.

Along with "Light The Beacon"'s super sordid and lugubrious "American Horror Story: 1984" conjuring synth induction, the musty old school accent which prevails, without wax (dummy) or wane, contributes immensely towards making Mind Freeze - I dig saying it! - Haunt's most sound and reputable record to date. Additionally, for my own planetary archives, entertain the very real and benign possibility "Traveler" (né "Voyageur"), with its final thrust into hyper-drive, orbits a wicked companion piece (split) in either Emblem or Oath, one of these light-years. Where the reliquian Burst Into Flame and If Icarus Could Fly solidly perpetuate Trevor and crew's shrewd, laconic genius for breezy melody, this here classy n' chimeric Shadow Kingdom analog snowcone of galaxy-minded self-realization is, effortlessly put, one for the celestial ages!

"On a course to see the stars.
I can't live behind closed bars.
The wind tells me where to go.
A quest to see what is unknown."

Yep, Back On The Over-hype Train - 99%

Sweetie, January 10th, 2020

At the rate that Haunt puts out albums and EPs, it’s damn-near impossible to keep up with them. Both of their full-lengths Burst Into Flame (2018) and If Icarus Could Fly (2019) made my year-end lists for those respective years. But I will admit that when you include the EPs, things start to sound like a change is needed. That’s where their newest effort Mind Freeze comes into play. It doesn’t step very far from the formula that boosted Trevor and co. to large extents, but some different strategies are clearly present.

The obvious one is the addition of synth almost everywhere, which opens the album in the beginning of “Light The Beacon.” This is executed in a style popularized in modern synth-wave more than anything retro. I can’t say the same about the overall construction, though. The addition of clearer backing vocals teamed up with that to give many ties to glam metal glitter. You can pick this up in the chorus of “Hearts On Fire” very easily. But if you’re not a glam freak like me, don’t panic. It doesn’t cast anything enormous over the traditional metal roots, and that song is still rather speed metal oriented at its core.

The further into Mind Freeze that you dive, the more you can also get a whiff of power metal. “Fight Or Flight” will drop this with energetic and swift attacks, also ringing in some speed metal. But epic passages even surface by the time you reach songs like “Divide And Conquer” just because of the calm but powerful emotion. The song rupturing into a strong solo is just icing on the cake. “Have No Fear” takes the more somber ideas that weave in and out, and slaps a feeling of hope to them, which I thought was beautiful.

Weirdly enough, as the songwriting is the tightest it has ever been, the mix is some of the sloppiest. This is not a fault at all; the drums standing apart from the mix made for something pleasant. Not only did it give this some more identity of its own, but it also helped the melodies stand apart from one-another even more. The title track was the most notable for that. Most importantly, everything feels fluid since all the songs sit flawlessly in place.

I have a bad habit of jumping on the hype-train too quickly with Haunt albums, seeing that the previous full-length wasn’t as perfect as I initially thought. But I have more confidence with Mind Freeze just from how memorable it is on its own. While I write this, I’m working at home due to snow and ice. This record’s cooler atmosphere and hopeful but sorrowful energy really fit the winter setting, and the standout identities that I find here are tremendous. Essential hearing for anyone into heavy, glam, speed, and traditional metal.

Originally written for Antichrist Magazine

The Winter's Kiss Has Made Me Blind - 85%

Twisted_Psychology, January 10th, 2020

If there’s one thing that I respect about Haunt, it’s their ability to keep a near-literal constant stream of releases from getting too interchangeable. The group never strays too far from a classic metal core, but each effort comes with a distinct flavor. It’s something that just about every band goes through, but putting out multiple albums and EPs within months of each other allows listeners to witness this evolution in as close to real-time as one can get.

A heightened synth presence immediately sets Haunt’s third album, Mind Freeze, apart from its predecessors. They’re most prominent on the swelling introductions of songs like the opening “Light the Beacon,” but one can always detect them subtly wafting throughout. There’s not much technicality to the playing beyond held out patches and simple arpeggios, but their contrasts with the often-frantic guitar work makes the songs more dramatic and even emotional compared to past tracks.

From there, the other instruments build on the glam tinges that were developing on If Icarus Could Fly. The guitars remain at the center of attention, continuing to invoke those mid-80s Ozzy influences as a glossy tone builds a solid foundation for choppy shredding. The drums also sound heavier than ever before, thanks to a hefty boost in the mix and healthy helpings of reverb. Through it all, the vocals keep to the same mid-range wail with occasional layering.

And like Haunt’s other outings, there are plenty of strong gems on Mind Freeze. The title track is an early standout thanks to its smooth pacing, appropriately icy synths, and one of the album’s more encouraging choruses. “Saviours of Man” takes those glam elements even further with its bouncy tempo and scaled back guitar emphasis. The album also puts in some atmosphere courtesy of the tempo fluctuations on “Have No Fear.”

At the end of the day, it’s nice to see Haunt offer differing takes on their old school metal formula at such a fast rate without running on fumes. A longer runtime allows for more fleshed-out songwriting compared to If Icarus Could Fly, and the expanded band dynamic gives it a touch more power than 2018’s Burst into Flame. The band is still building up their momentum quite nicely, and the same will likely be said for the inevitable follow-up that’ll be out in six months or so.

Highlights:
“Mind Freeze”
“Saviours of Man”
“Have No Fear”

Originally published at http://indymetalvault.com