Album review: Haunt "Dreamer"

Album review: Haunt "Dreamer"
Credit: Haunt Bandcamp

Haunt main man Trevor William Church is unequivocally one of the most prolific metal musicians. The band – a classic-sounding metal outfit based in Fresno, California - released more than ten studio records during a seven-year period from 2018 to present, the first five on Shadow Kingdom Records before the most recent releases on Church Recordings. Incredibly, Church released several early Haunt records while simultaneously fronting and recording a series of Beastmaker records.

Haunt was initially created as a solo project, with Church writing and recording all music and lyrics. Haunt’s records are incredibly consistent, with earlier releases Mind Freeze and Burst into Flame arguably the band at its best. However, recent releases – notably, last year’s Golden Arm and 2021’s Beautiful Distraction– nobly carry the proverbial torch.

Due to the critical success of Haunt, Church focused on recording and touring with his main band in recent years. Although he remains the one and only songwriter and lyricist, Church enlisted several talented musicians – guitarist Andy Lei, bassist Sam Harman, and drummer Andy Saldate – to take Haunt on the road across the United States and Europe, where the band headlined intimate metal clubs with support from, among others, Hell Fire, Tanith, Seven Sisters, and Intranced. Haunt is also renown for its wide variety of band merchandise available on its Band Camp page, with a large array of cassettes, CDS, clothing, and records showcasing the band’s numerous EP, LP, and singles.

Haunt performing in Brooklyn, New York in September 2022 while supporting Beautiful Distraction (Photo Credit: Steve Vargas)

Haunt’s records are succinct in that they typically consist of 8-10 songs each three to five minutes, with a well-established recipe of melodic aggression. Their most recent release Dreamers – also released on Church Recordings – carries on the band’s traditional sound with one of two surprising sonic twists. Incredibly, Church penned no song shorter than 3:20 nor longer than 4:23.

The opening track “Serenade” begins with Church singing over an acoustic guitar intro before soaring guitar harmonies overtake the listener. Then, Haunt’s trademark riffing takes center stage before a captivating solo section. The song ends the way it began, with an acoustic outro. Haunt selected “Serenade” as its lead single and created a music video to capture the band in its element. The drums are conspicuously more present in the mix than prior releases, and sound powerful throughout.

“Locked Out” and “Steel Mountains” follow the rousing opener, the latter of which features another Haunt staple – backing group vocals followed by Church’s lead vocals prominently in the mix. A brief Church tapping solo between the first and second verses is a precursor to a lengthier solo section towards the end of the song. “Return to Sender” features more guitar theatrics.

“Send Me An Angel” – the first mid-tempo song on the record - opens with a synthesizer lead before the guitar mimics the synth melody. The chorus is comprised of lyrics that are largely identical to the song title, and the rhythms interestingly and uncharacteristically resemble a 1980’s Kiss single. The title track is another mid-paced number, again exploring the theme of “love” that was largely absent from prior Haunt recordings. The penultimate “One Chance” similarly discusses the pain and suffering arising from loneliness, and “the void inside your heart you feel” when “life keeps moving along” without you.

Finale “Visions” returns to the more recognizable Haunt sound to close the record, with Church concluding with “please show me a sign”. The guitar solo during the song’s final minute is among the best on the record.

Dreamers is yet another release worthy of the Haunt moniker. During a time when many artists eschew studio recordings in favor of touring for well-established financial reasons, Haunt’s prodigious release catalogue is ambitious, remarkable, and welcome.

Rating: 7/10

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