Hot off 2018’s explosive LP Burst Into Flame, Haunt are back with an answer to their successful roster. If Icarus Could Fly released worldwide on March 15th via Shadow Kingdom Records, to the praise of the band’s rapidly growing fanbase. Let’s see what all the hype surrounding this band is about.
As an owner of virgin ears in regard to Haunt’s music, I’ve been looking for an excuse to sink my teeth into their sound. I feel like these days, a lot of bands don’t really have something that quantifies within the realm of a defined “sound.” Rather, we tend to use ancient bands and established sounds to describe newer bands, a factor that presents with polar sides. In one regard, this can be seen as a genre fanbase being stuck in the past, relentlessly pleasing heavy metal Gods of the ‘70s and ‘80s through blasphemous listening rituals. On the other hand, this can be seen as an element of pride, and more-so a much needed emphasis on history and actors in a prominent cultural shift. Either way, while household names like Judas Priest and Angel Witch can be tossed around within recommendation descriptions, Haunt certainly keep their sound within the roots of ‘70s hard rock, which isn’t something all that common these days.
While If Icarus Could Fly is undoubtedly rooted within the realm of heavy metal, there are a lot of other elements at play here which contribute to Haunt’s sound. The motivational attitudes and song structures of numbers like “Run and Hide” harken back to a simpler time when the newfound distortion-driven energy of early hard rock was encapsulated within songs surrounding themes of rebellion and calls for action. Of course metal music has taken the foundations created by songs like “Balls to the Wall” and “Back in Black” and morphed them into twisted designs within the realms of death and black metal, but one thing remains the same: the metaphorical energy of screaming guitars, energetic drumming, and driven vocal styles sticks with this music, whether you’re listening to Thin Lizzy or Torture Rack.
Haunt very much continues this encapsulation with the song structures, chord progressions, and vocal signatures presented on If Icarus Could Fly. Even the ballad-like “It’s In My Hands” feels somewhat inspirational to the ears, as the natural emotional simplicity of Haunt’s music oozes from this track the best, I feel. Among other things, the cosmic frontal guitar riffing, steady drum beats, and operatic yet driven vocals keep this half-hour long album trotting along track after track, with no real snoozers or disappointments to be found.
The album’s thematic presence is surely one of its pull factors, at least to the English nerd hiding beneath the bellows of my thick skin. I’ve always been passively interested in allusions to the likes of those to Icarus, albeit my knowledge of these things doesn’t tend to scratch past the surface level. Unfortunately, Haunt’s doesn’t either, but this will be a negligible factor for most.
If Icarus Could Fly is evidently built around the Greek tale of Icarus, the man famous for being the reason the expression “don’t fly too close to the sun” was coined. Icarus’ Father became stuck with Icarus as the two trapped a minotaur in their constructed labyrinth, unfortunately trapping themselves as well. Icarus’ Father fashioned a winged contraption out of wax and feathers for his son to use to escape the maze with, famously warning him not to fly too close to the sun nor too close to the ocean, as both would result in peril. Of course, we’re here talking about this story, so obviously something bad happened to our air-bound friend. Icarus did not heed his Father’s instructions, and did indeed fly too close to the sun, causing his feathers to burn and wax to melt, resulting in him drowning in the waters below, now titled the Icarian Sea.
Haunt builds the album in question around this premise, albeit rather sloppily in some cases. If Icarus Could Fly seems to revolve around themes of pride, love longing, and heroic action, all ultimately relating in some shape or form to the human condition and miraculous connection. I don’t know, really, that seemed to sum it all up but now reading that doesn’t really make any sense, nor does it mean much. From what I’ve gathered, the Icarus tale serves as a metaphor for not pushing yourself beyond fathomable limits, and serves as an ultimate warning of youthful recklessness. Digging into the story’s scripture reveals that Icarus seemed to dismiss his Father’s warnings.
However, Haunt’s album features a trio of tracks revolving around emotional longing, or at least infatuation of female deities, and defenders in the final hour. I’ve looked through the lyrics, and the band seem to dismiss the true meanings of Icarus’ tale. Furthermore, the one track directly referencing Icarus’ story, the title track, basically reads as a Wikipedia summary; I would know, where do you think I’m getting all of the above information? While the vocalist’s driven and borderline emotional singing style excuses the simple lyrics, you can’t help but wonder why the band didn’t delve deeper into the themes of which their album title is based around. There’s some mythical content here, some emotional love tales, and songs revolving around heroes saving the lost, and while these all kind of touch upon Greek mythology and its general thematic principles, I feel like there was a lost opportunity here. Perhaps the polar nature of this album is meant to be interpreted as a notion that everything will be alright and that mistakes can be made (I’m referencing “Defender” which describes an inhuman individual of the lifesaver kind), but that just isn’t what the Icarus tale is about; and the album is called “If Icarus Could Fly!” I guess I just would have liked more of a historical lesson rather than a surface level context.
All in all, the songs presented on If Icarus Could Fly are all strong and complementary in some shape or form. If you liked the Luminous Eyes EP, as well as the band’s previous full-length, this new one will be right up your alley. These are some great heavy metal jams fixed with a tinge of ‘70s hard rock mentality, and I really dig it. I would have enjoyed some further exploration of the Icarus theme, but I guess its all just heavy metal in the end.