Album Review: Haunter – Discarnate Ails

Album Review: Haunter - Discarnate Ails
Reviewed by Sam Jones

Here we have a record that I was especially curious about upon first seeing it. The artwork grabbed me straight away, sporting a gothic looking band name design with a jagged landscape that seemed just as daunting to behold. Then I saw this album would only have three songs throughout its duration, so I knew I had to heck it out for myself. Haunter formed in 2013 but their early years were dominated by Demos and Splits, until finally in 2016 the band released their first studio album: Thrinodia. Various Splits would soon follow alongside bands such as Sovereign and Crawl before they’d release their second album in 2019: Sacramental Death Qualia, this time released via I, Voidhanger Records. But now signed onto Profound Lore Records, a huge step up for Haunter no doubt, the band are set to release their upcoming third full length opus come early May. So, here was my first opportunity to see what Haunter were all about and I was deeply excited.

With only three songs it was always going to be interesting to see what Haunter would give us. As a result of this sparse selection of tracks, the songs we do receive are much longer than your contemporary pieces. But what certainly surprised me was how successfully the band managed to make their longest pieces herein thoroughly engaging and exciting from start to finish. There were no typically quieter moments throughout these tracks that often populate longer pieces to mask the cooling off periods, there were very few instances of predictable songwriting where you could potentially envision where the band were going. All throughout these lengthy tracks, the band’s energy is at a constant 100% and aside from what the songwriting demands, it never lets up. It may slow down here and there but Haunter haven’t implemented one moment at all where it falls into predictability. The style of riff and sound also helps to lend their songwriting a swirling and maddening aesthetic too. Haunter never give us the chance to wonder where we’re going because they’re continuously changing it up with new horizons and vistas to gaze upon and before you know it, the track will be over.

I loved the guitar tone on this album. The riff work has this bludgeoning impact, the weight is immense and you’ll be able to feel it bear down on you as you’re listening. But the guitar work also possesses this macabre and metallic timbre to its performance as well, so while the band are giving you a deliciously heavy sound they’re also throwing in a secondary sound that lends an ethereal or cerebral quality to their performance. I also appreciated how Haunter didn’t simply go with the contemporary slab-tone for their sound either. Much of their riffs and general songwriting possesses an airier sound that enables you to float through this record without obstruction at all. Solos are easily heard and their nuances picked up on, as well as the more unusual riff segments that certainly populate this album, furthering that cerebral nature of their sound.

Album Review: Haunter – Disincarnate Ails

But the whirling vortices that the riffs help to conjure wouldn’t have the power they possess, if the vocals weren’t the frontal force that they are. The vocals are where the band meet the middle ground between a blackened and deathened metal sound, making use of their frontman’s bellowing pipes as he’s able to metaphorically project his vocal chords into mountains far distant where you could potentially hear the echoes travel through these vast distances. But then you get the flip side to them and before long, the vocals seem to tighten in the throat and a more visceral sound is projected. It works seamlessly with the band’s more extreme and avant-garde form of riff playing, especially when that cerebral nature of guitar playing is implemented, and never makes one element feel out of place against the other.

If you ask me, the level of production and form of mixing that’s been applied to this album is absolutely spot on for what the band wanted to achieve here. They’ve managed to strike a middle ground here between compact and closed in, and a veritable open space which allows their sound to freely travel without restrictions. These are two opposing forms of production and yet, Discarnate Ails comes across like it’s managed to harness the best of both styles. Their sound doesn’t feel too hemmed in but still delivers on the punching nature of riffs and drums. Blast beats are capable of hitting us right where the impact can best be felt but it’s not like their rolling thunder is forever coming in to dominate us and our senses, the drumming is nicely appetising and we’re able to receive the full volley of their malice without them crossing the threshold and beating us in addition. The band have effectively mastered the mix with this record, a mix that’s clearly been meticulously fine tuned to give their audience everything they know their fans will want to hear. It’s not an easy balance for any band to pull off, so it’s excellent to see when a band is able to demonstrate it to such an effective degree.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed this album primarily because the band have really gone and stuck their necks out to create a different extreme medal record than many other bands may have the guts to record. Solos are here but few and far between and there are even fewer demonstrations of individual instrumental vanity either; there are zero occasions where one element of the band is indulging themselves to show off. Everything Haunter have here is geared towards the collective band performance and it really shows, remove one aspect of them from the record and it wouldn’t work. Each piece of their sound works in tandem with the other, in the way that the vocals compliment the riffs and vice versa; the drumming helps to ground their sound while the more ethereal riffs are giving us that avant-garde aesthetic; the vocals showcase the raw and intense power that strikes us square in the face, rounding out the band’s solid performance. The way they made 10 - 15 minute tracks seamlessly easy to experience without wondering g when it may change up or move onto the next pieces is startling. The songwriting is absolutely on point so there’s never a point where you’re hoping for the next track to revitalise your interest; in this case Haunter don’t have time. They only have three tracks to please you so they needed to do away with the niceties and get to the point. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this album and certainly recommend it if you’re looking for a cerebral and outright weird sounding record.

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