It’s 1980. Pac-Man’s born, Mount Saint Helens erupts, John Lennon dies. Excitement, terror, anguish: these three animalistic traits existed for most in this first year of a new decade. Well, unless you hate video games, think volcanoes are wimpy, and despise The Beatles/John Lennon/Ono. But ’80 had another thing going for it that adds “happiness” to our list of emotions. Angel Witch released their damn-near perfect self-titled, full-length debut. Angel Witch never was, and never will be, bigger than Christ, but that beautiful NWoBHM sound came in a form that finally convinced me of the genre’s significance. Since then, the band has only released a handful of LPs in the last forty years.1 But, like all forefathers, there’s a time for hanging up the hat and letting the next generation2 take over. Thank Christ, there are those that are capable of taking up that hat—specifically, Haunt and Cauldron. The former being the focus of today’s review.
Yet, dread begins to grip you as you recognize the name and realize Haunt put up their debut less than a year ago. That’s never a good sign, is it? This can only end in one of two scenarios: this new release is a rushed, directionless piece of shit or If Icarus Could Fly is Part II to Burst into Flame. The former case is never ideal and, in this American quartet’s case, the latter ain’t detrimental. Though I gave Burst into Flame a mere 3.0/5.0, Grier fans, Grier haters, and the random assortment of King Diamond aficionados know that’s a repeat listen for olde Grier. Which means it’s good, in the trvest sense of the word. A new release from a proto-heavy metal outfit on the road with Spirit Adrift ain’t anything to roll eyes over either. But where does this 2019’s If Icarus Could Fly stand compared to 2018’s Burst into Flame?
Well, opener “Run and Hide” stands dick-to-ass to Burst in Flame closer, “Looking Glass.” If Icarus Could Fly is nothing more than a Part II to its predecessor. It has the same wicked guitar work, gentle and addictive vocals, high-flying energy, and a melodic clear coat. The opener kicks things off on the high-energy side of things. It has a cruising riff and galloping tempo that’ll get your blood pumping on the tour circuit. The sing-along chorus and killer soloing oughta please any pit seeker, but it’s the mid-song transition to a full-band chant of “stand up and fight!” that’ll have everyone’s fists pumping into the air. “Clarion” and “Winds of Destiny” are other quick-paced numbers with memorable choruses and soaring guitar work. Yet, there’s a melodic passion to “Clarion” and its dueling, harmonizing guitar solos are only topped by those of “Winds of Destiny.” This is something the band has upped their game on since last August. Not to mention the killer, headbangable riffs of “Winds of Destiny”—making it the heaviest track the band has ever written.
The rest of the album have their own unique contributions to the disc. “It’s in My Hands” is a simple, mid-paced groover that stands out because of its vocals. The kind of vocals that glide over every note dropped by the guitars. Not stunning in delivery but it works. “Ghosts” is the smooth, emotional piece of the record that combines powerful leads and solos with gentle vocal arrangements. It’s simple and only memorable for being the odd duck to the other seven tracks. Like “Ghosts,” closer “Defender” is packed to the brim with melody and emotion, yet “Defender” is a far superior song. Opening with Spirit Adrift-inspired guitar emotion, its soloing slays and its chorus is as good as those from “Clarion” and “Winds of Destiny.”
Though every track is well-structured and stands on its own two feet, tracks like “Ghosts,” “Cosmic Kiss,” and the title track aren’t on the same level as “Clarion,” “Defender,” and “Winds of Destiny.” Like Burst in Flame, this new outing isn’t interested in reinventing the NWOBHM/heavy metal wheel. Instead, its heart is set on bringing fun and happiness to its listener via a compact, eight-track, thirty-minute medium. The band has ramped up that old-school, feel-good soloing of old—something you don’t hear enough of these days—and If Icarus Could Fly exists as a solid continuation of Burst into Flame.