Written by: Blackie Skulless
Haunt mastermind Trevor Church and Co. have basically been churning out endless material since I discovered them in late 2018 around the release of the debut album. Sticking to a pretty traditional style of heavy metal, they made their first mild shift in early 2020 with Mind Freeze, a record that I admittedly simp for. This marked the first of a gradual step towards synthier, perhaps poppier songs that had more chorus-based structures. Although I thought Flashback was a bit of an awkward transition, the latest full-length Beautiful Distraction basically steps in and ties up loose ends.
Continuing off of the prior idea, you get a better executed version of these accessible tactics molded with firm heavy metal riffing. The layering especially is the best that Haunt have done with the trade-offs between guitar/keyboard and how they follow each other. Allowing for songs to flow from one to the next easier, they can now squeeze in different writing directions smoothly. That, in and of itself, is one of the biggest standouts.
For one, Beautiful Distraction displays some of the heaviest signs of US power metal influence the band has ever showcased. “Sea Of Dreams” gave me these vibes immediately, banging out fast and aggressive rhythms under a sharp production to contrast the synth-y intro. “Imaginary Borders” brings this forth as well in intensity and build but perhaps contains slightly less bite. The backing harmonies also breathe so much life into this one for being a heavier one. Obviously this was mastered on prior albums, but the levels of contrast that work together hit higher.
On the other hand, these mix incredibly well with the Flashback continuations, showing immediately in the opening/title track. It’s a glorious depiction of wonderful melodies that are friendly while also matching the heavy vibes and harder production. I also really love how “Keeping Watch'' reflects this same structure, but focuses more on vocal clarity and brightness. It doesn’t prevent the bridge, as well as solo here from being immaculate with their progressions, making it great all around.
But like I said, the linear flow and precise layout of the instruments are crucial to this record’s success. The clearest example would probably be “Face Of Danger,” one of the more neutral tracks where the chorus follows the synth-riff; Trevor’s voice hits some peak heights here. As of now, this is probably my favorite Haunt release outside of Mind Freeze. It mastered the same memorability with a different approach loaded into the same chamber of structure.
Haunt - Beautiful Distraction will be released April 2nd, 2021, and can be pre-ordered here.
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