I hear we’re calling this stuff the New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal. I’m always eager to embrace yet another nonsensical label, and await the inevitable usage of NWOTHM or whatever. Point is, you can label Fresno, CA band Haunt whatever you want if it helps you get through the night. Me? The band, their sound, and their killer debut fell length Burst Into Flame is simple heavy metal, and the world is better for its honesty in simply wanting to rock you hard and sweet.
A lot of bands are hitting this balance of melody and punch that was such a staple of the early 80s, but unlike the majority Haunt bring a sense of introspection lyrically that blends well with the ride into the sun music. The brainchild of Trevor William Church from Beastmaker, Haunt released the Luminous Eyes EP to some acclaim in 2017 with all the pieces in place: strong lead guitar lines carrying the song’s melody, plenty of pick slides and palm-muted riffing matching the percussion in lock step goodness, and Church’s voice carrying the torch that folks like Chris Black raise high with his Danwbringer, Aktor, and High Spirits. Burst Into Flame takes all that energy and doubles down with a beefier production that brings everything into a better light.
The opening title track signals the way the whole album is going to go. Melody lines are key as twin guitars harmonize before speeding into the main verse, Church’s voice carrying it through. Built into a full band the rhythm section is ridiculously tight, with drummer Daniel Wilson and bassist Matthew Wilhoit locking down a frenetic, in your face pace that never lets up, allowing Church and his partner in Beastmaker John Michael Tucker rip it up on guitar. “Crystal Ball” starts with an infectious hook that’s classic before moving on to an even more classic chorus structure. The solos are blazing throughout, and standout tracks “Reflectors” and “Frozen in Time” with its vocal “ooohs” and guitar work reminiscent of Ozzy’s “Shot in the Dark” show how in tune Haunt are with the work of their forefathers.
There’s more you can say about Burst Into Flame, about how each song stands as a “hit” any other band would love to have on their albums, about how killer the riff on “Heroes” is; how more bands treading the “traditional metal” path could take a lesson or two from Haunt, particularly in how well the songs are both sequenced and constructed to have maximum impact in such a short amount of time.
Me? I’d rather sit back with the music on repeat and absorb every lick, line, and riff. You do you, though.