Texas gave us the fiendish black metal of Necrofier last year, and now another group emerge from the Lone Star State with a determination to reset your expectations of the genre. Say hello to Haunter, debuting on Profound Lore for their third album and touring through Europe as you read this. As a trio that play together in a country band called Calico Bonnet, the members of Haunter wear Dipygus and Atheist t-shirts and look like the type of people that’ll hijack your car and awaken the Stockholm syndrome in your captive girlfriend. So why do they sound like the opposite of their appearance?
Apparently, Haunter started out as a screamo band, but they must have discovered the avant-garde black metal of Ved Buens Ende and Dodecahedron at some point in their unique musical evolution. Disincarnate Ails delivers thirty-one minutes of progressive black metal executed in a dissonant death metal style. It’s also more challenging that the UK driving theory test when you’re under the influence of alcohol. Be prepared for bewilderment on first listen. Let the music speak to you on the second spin. For the third attempt, imagine three berobed musicians in white smocks surrounded by a circle of female virgins in long dresses with daisies in their hair. In the centre of this spiritual grid point is vocalist and guitarist, Bradley Tiffin, slashing his plectrum against the most obscure of chord formations. His instrument is the portal of communication between his occultist sect and the creator God who can transport them to the golden afterlife.
Opening ritual, ‘Overgrown with the Moss’, sees Tiffin in full demonic possession mode as he tries in vain to get an answer from his deity. He and fellow guitarist, Enrique Bonilla, seek their supreme lord’s attention with cosmic folk guitars but switch to a slimy death metal grind for their first attempt at communion. A surprise dream-like somnolence permeates underneath the aggressive thrashing and rapid drum patterns, a bit like Maryland progressives, Dialogia. These ten minutes of drama are not the easiest to follow, nor does the composition offer much coherence, but would you expect something comprehensible if you stumbled upon a pagan ritual in the early Sunday splendour of a secluded forest? You’d probably fear for your life, you pathetic city-dweller. Your cynicism and atheism have no place as a spectator to Haunter’s music. The head-spinning death metal tremolos at the eight-minute mark offer one of the easier passages to memorise, but the washing machine blast beats at the end signify an inevitable victory for the corporeal over the spiritual.
‘Spiritual Illness’ will remind you of Gorguts but with the chord choices of Australian experimentalists, Portal. Clocking in at nearly seven minutes, it might also be the easiest to understand. The black metal approach is atmospheric but muscular, and Bradley Tiffin exudes confidence that the manifestation of his deity will appear before his eyes with one more push. They say that God loves a trier, and the trio do their best to summon the chimera of their imagination with death metal growls, chugging low-end riffs and jazz fusion chord accents. There’s so much going on and so many modulations to keep up with, but that’s the point, right? You’re now spying on the band’s spiritual ceremony. Look at the perspiration levels. Are they speaking in tongues?
Your heart will sink when you see the running time for closing track, ‘Chained at the Helm of the Eschaton’. How can thirteen minutes of this zealous summoning of the spirits compute in your materialist mind? The trio of Haunter share your frustration, but theirs is a disconsolance born out of the realisation that perhaps no deity will answer their call. Here, the dissonant death metal becomes too repetitive and introverted. Even the guitar has a finite number of screeching chords one can throttle from its fretboard. Nevertheless, the song comes to life at the seven-minute mark with a flurry of wild scream projections and violent skank beats. They need to sustain this level of malevolence for the appearance of their God, but their ceremony is too rational. Extreme metal works best when chaos is the prime ingredient. It stays in the background here.
You feel your pulse stabilising. These pagan worshippers will not murder you, nor do they have the power to summon the God of their imagination. The perspiration levels abate, and the participants end their ceremony in the realisation that today is another day in the banal existence of humanity. But there’s always the next time…
Release Date: 06/05/2022
Record Label: Profound Lore
Standout track: Overgrown with the Moss
Suggested Further Listening: Dodecahedron – Kwintessens (2017), Gorguts – Obscura (1998), Atræ Bilis – Apexapian (2021)