Haunted - Dayburner - (8/10)
Published on November 16, 2018
Italy doesn’t have the largest metal scene in Europe, but it’s still a surprise to find that Haunted share members with the primitive black thrash outfit Schizo, known for making a lot of noise around the same time as Bulldozer and Necrodeath were smashing up the underground with ugly fast music. Schizo drummer Dario Casabona has been with the group since the early days of their 1990s reformation and now finds himself brought into Haunted’s line-up for their second album. More surprisingly, he nestles in among two of Schizo’s current live players, one of whom is called Frank and the other Francesco (Tudisco, bass, and Bauso, guitar), which must be a little confusing given that Francesco Orlando rounds out the role call of instrumentalists. Happily, Cristina Chimirri is in no danger of being mixed up with her bandmates, while her vocals also prove to be one of the distinctive points of Haunted’s sound.
A far cry from Schizo’s barbaric thrash, Dayburner sees a reprisal of the style on the self-titled debut: bassy, flowing stoner doom turned up and blissed out to the point of being a ritualistic experience, as if a warm breeze were blowing Satan in through the window of an old villa that smells of hemp. Trendy it may sound, but the occult is never a mere fad and the sinuous grooves presented on these lengthy songs do not trivialize the subject, nor allow much doubt to arise about the band’s intentions. Listeners are here to be hypnotized and to dream, not to think too carefully about who is playing what chords or how long the riff has lasted. The words repetition and ephemerality rarely go hand in hand, though Dayburner provides a breeding ground for the two concepts.
Musically, reverb and steadiness are the key ingredients. The soft sheen of the album’s production remains warm and organic without giving up an air of insidious menace, the rumbling guitars coming on as almost romantic alongside Chimirri’s expressive voice, changing only when one hears a snatch of her troubling lyrics. The layering of some of the melodies is so close to the level of the main guitar riffs that only an act of concentration will separate them into distinct sounds, just as the theme of the title track only becomes clear during its last verse, which runs thus:
The Devil was sitting on the high throne
I could not see his face
Then a light from above
Has showed me who he was.
The slow reveal of the music also encapsulates moments of clarity, shifting dynamics that loom up like breaks in the oppressive stormclouds of the guitars, such as the sudden entrance of brighter melody in closer “Lunar Grave”, which otherwise seems to be entirely introduction until four fifths of the way through. Hence, the gradual truth of the album dawns: not a sombre, gentle affair as it seems, Dayburner is closer to the title track’s promise that “I will tell you what I saw on the other side / A cold wind and a horned God”.
Haunted’s aim is to remove the listener from their physical and temporal realm and deposit them somewhere alternate, so drawing comparisons seems beside the point. Nevertheless, this trip heads down the same sort of road that Electric Wizard and Windhand have travelled on, though with a little less nastiness than the former and none of the philosophy of the latter despite the likeness of the singers’ voices. Instead, the path is much flatter and the going more comfortable, with the ghosting focus of Chimirri’s vocals the main attraction, notwithstanding moody riffing and several sinuous leads. As with those other bands, the songs draw themselves out and the album expands in space and time, making 66 minutes either a much longer or much shorter duration than expected. The style is extremely consistent throughout, only breaking up during two brief interludes, so the listener must be claimed by the atmosphere quickly or risk falling prey to boredom before the end of opener “Mourning Sun”. For those who wish to seek out this kind of experience, Dayburner contains the requisite dose of magic.