Pop quiz, motherfathers: What has the voice of an apathetic angel, Sabbathian wings o’ doom, and slowly circles the skies with Alunah in its claws and Italian fire in its heart? If you didn’t guess Haunted, either the review title got fucked up or you’re just one of the masses. Haunted aren’t exactly cavehold names in the doom community, but Dayburner sees the quintet looking to change that. Iommi worship acts being a doom a dozen these days, could these guys possibly be bringing anything new to the fuzzy plate? If so, is it something to be proud of? How haven’t I heard of these doomsters before now? And why so many questions?
Answers: sort of, yes, subterranean existence, and because knowledge is power, yo. Haunted follow in the plodding vein of Windhand and Alunah, paying riffy tribute to the lengthy ways of ye olde Black Sabbath with a decidedly more modern tone and sense of aggression. Speaking of modern, the presence of the fairer sex behind the mic is also slowly becoming more customary within the lethargic ranks of the genre, and Cristina Chimirri’s dayburning performance is a particularly potent one. Comparisons to Alunah are likely inevitable and certainly not misplaced, but there’s also a brooding energy reminiscent of The Slow Death‘s Mandy Andresen that lends itself excellently to Chimirri’s darkened Cranberries-esque wails of lament; female fronted doom is becoming more commonplace as the metal scene joins the slow but gradual global relocation of collective head from ass, but the dark seas o’ doom are not yet so fraught with lady fish as to disallow Chimirri to stand out from the school.
Structurally speaking, girl-meets-doom may be old hat by now, but this isn’t to say that Dayburner is just another trip back in time with fuzzed tones and glazed eyes. There’s the hollow vibrancy of Chimirri’s dark musings that really ties the doom together, and for all its idolizing of the olde there is still enough dark new blood in Dayburner‘s riffs and melodies to allow the album to feel like a fresh new experience instead of yet another tired gathering at the same old graves. Songs such as “Waterdawn” or “Mourning Sun” see some super Sabbath-y stuff ensconced in sludge and served with a side of six-string solos that slither in a style similar to a spookier and somewhat subdued Necromancers, and occasional keyboard accents add a pleasantly unpleasant atmosphere while bucking the traditional Italian doom customs of drowning everything in Nosferatu-scented cheese. While much of what’s being done here has been done enough in doom to damn the whole ordeal as downright derivative, Haunted have enough of their own thing going on as to have a distinct and enjoyable signature sound… so why haven’t I heard of them before?
Ultimately, the disappointing reality is that Haunted albums aren’t quite worth babbling about… yet. Though Francesco’s Bauso and Orlando deliver doomed guitar goods in riffalicious spades, the whole “less is more” bit is widely ignored in favor of a “more of everything” ethos for Dayburner‘s 76 minutes. This is at great detriment to both the album and the band. Crawling along for over 13 minutes, the Windhand-ed “Vespertine” in particular may dabble in some delightfully dour dominions of doom while featuring the most lively and engaging solo of the album, but without ample songwriting dynamics to spruce things up, they get really stale really fast. The talent and downtrodden soul that make for excellent doom metal are very evidently here, but the songwriting skills required to make an appropriately excellent doom album are, unfortunately, not quite there yet. Dayburner suffers greatly for its beyond repetitive and less than enthralling structures, the end result being an album somewhat too tedious to justify the full eight song marathon that Haunted deliver.
Doom and brevity may be mortal enemies, yet until Haunted‘s editing game catches up to their musicianship they’ll find themselves losing the list season battle every time. This is definitely a shame, as Chimirri alone is clearly a valuable addition to any band, and the Ghost Brigade-does-Sabbath riffs of Dayburner truly are top notch. Haunted have all the right ghosts in their graveyard, but they let them linger for far longer than is advisable, and by doing so the band renders their distinct and highly enjoyable sound significantly less enjoyable.