There’s something so feel-good about classic heavy metal. Those classics from the ’80s that haven’t aged one bit. For me, stuff like Grim Reaper‘s classic See You in Hell, as well as Angel Witch‘s self-titled debut and sophomore release, Screamin’ n’ Bleedin’. I can’t get enough of these albums. Not to mention the soon-to-be classics from modern practitioners like Cauldron, Spellcaster, and Skull Fist. While some of you might prefer one artist over the other, to these ears, they all write music that makes me feel fucking good. Catchy choruses, groovy riffs, upbeat attitudes, and concise songs that know when to call it quits. A couple years ago, I put Spellcaster‘s Night Hides the World on my top ten list. But, now that they appear to have folded, I’m in search of a replacement with the same amount of pizzazz. In walks Haunt and their debut record Burst into Flame. A record with plenty of Spellcaster-meets-Angel Witch vibe. But is it what Grier‘s been waiting for?
Well, Burst into Flame hasn’t toppled Night Hides the World from its heavy metal perch but there’s still plenty here to enjoy. Originally created as a solo project for bassist/guitarist/vocalist Trevor William Church,1 this now quartet is all about the classic chugs, clever fretwork, soaring vocals, and squealing solos. The song structures are simple and the payoff is an album that flows well, with songs that don’t complicate the formula. Burst in Flames ain’t perfect but, from beginning to end, it’s a fun forty minutes.
The opening title track tells you all you need to know about Burst into Flame. It has a fast-paced, old-school, heavy metal lick that screams for an addictive chorus, which promptly rears its lovely head. A chorus that soars with a Cauldron-meets-Spellcaster smoothness—Church’s vocal style adding warmth and control to the song. Other faster-paced pieces are “Wanderlust” and closer “Looking Glass.” The former is as memorable as the opener from start to finish, while the latter has a more interesting back-side than front. But, when “Looking Glass” does cross the midway mark, the scale tips in its favor, resulting in one of the more memorable riffs of the album.
“Can’t Get Back” is like the closer in that it’s only interesting toward the end. Otherwise, the first half of the song is pretty standard stuff. This also applies to numbers like “Crystal Ball” and “Frozen in Time.” Both add their unique touches to the album but they are typical heavy metal numbers. But, when the band infuses some melodic elements into the mix, that’s where they shine. Neither “Reflectors” and “My Mirage” lose the album’s pace but their sprinklings of emotion and well-executed vocals make them fuller pieces than some of their colleagues. But, all of the more-melodic ditties, “Heroes” might be the best. It combines classic, killer chugs and solo work with epic melodicness and a chorus packed to the brim with lead and backing vox.
Burst into Flame is a solid debut from these Californians. It has all the elements of those classic albums but, unfortunately, it’s quite predictable. But that’s not surprising for a record of this caliber, released in 2018. What keeps me coming back, though, is the hardworking guitars, the fluidity of the disc, and the smooth, soothing vocals. The last is the exact reason I love (and miss) Spellcaster so much. Burst into Flame is a good time and an easy listen. Haunt aren’t reinventing the wheel here but any lover of the genre will get something out of this.