Review Summary: Cliché aside, Discarnate Ails stands as the next logical step in Haunter's journey.
Starting off as a blackened screamo act, Texas-based quartet Haunter have been morphing into new forms with each release. Although early influences, notably Deathspell Omega, continued to emerge, the band have gradually shifted into more dissonant death metal grounds, closer to bands like Artificial Brain. A stylistic territory increasingly explored over the past decade. Death and black metal now intertwine in a set of mostly atonal harmonies, replacing the original punk(ish) signature with a hybrid roar more in sync with its time. 2019's Sacramental Death Qualia
mirrored this progression while simultaneously unveiling the main path followed on Haunter's third studio album - Discarnate Ails
By now, nearly ten years after their debut demo, the band has fully stabilized their formula, simplifying it, making it slightly more straightforward and linear. Like a well-oiled machine smoothly driving through safe, familiar routes. This is mainly due to a greater maturity and focus that amplifies and crystallizes the musical direction. Even the concept, which previously addressed esoteric and spiritual themes, now focuses on tangible experiences, simplifying the message. As the boys say, they just want to rock, and this is their way of doing it. Three songs, spanning a little over thirty minutes, certainly won't be the most mainstream entertainment, but they do represent in a very peculiar way the band's laid-back mood, which manifests itself in the more straightforward approach mentioned earlier.
The dialectic between black and death metal remains Haunter's backbone, being immediately apparent in the first few minutes of the opener, 'Overgrown with the Moss', which goes from a black metal section to a dissonant vortex in the blink of an eye, as if we’re witnessing a dance between The Ruins of Beverast and Artificial Brain in a rock-and-moss-strewn landscape. This interplay is constant throughout Discarnate Ails
. As are the tempo variations that generate a dynamic yet linear flow, in a one-way stream where everything seems interconnected, despite the subtle contrasts. Paradoxically, this consistency unintentionally generates some monochromaticity that may tire some listeners, also undermining the album's replay value. Nevertheless, Discarnate Ails
is not without its surprises, such as the short but tasty solo in 'Chained at the Helm of the Eschaton' or the lead guitar layer in the opener that lend some excitement to the mostly dissonant palette. The massive Deathspell Omega-ish main riff of the closing track or the dynamic vocal interplay that bursts through 'Spiritual Illness' are other highlights of the album, along with the collective's cohesive performance that always operates in close synergy. The crew is more focused and connected than ever, and that's amply palpable.
Cliché aside, Discarnate Ails
stands as the next logical step in Haunter's journey. Not only is it the band's best release to date but also one of 2022's finest dissonances so far. And considering what's already been done and what's coming up next, looks like we're in for a treat, boys.