(Shadow Kingdom 2018)
Trevor William Church is known in certain circles as the singer/guitarist of Rise Above Records recording artist Beastmaker, who play a form of doom/stoner metal that doesn’t really show up on my radar. Somewhere along the way, Church got a hankering to explore more traditional, old-school metal realms. As a vehicle for indulging that impulse without derailing his “day job” band, he formed Haunt, which has recently released its debut EP entitled Luminous Eyes via Shadow Kingdom Records. What makes Luminous Eyes stand out as an initial matter is that Church did almost everything himself. He wrote the songs; performed all vocals, guitars and bass; and even recorded, mixed and mastered the EP. Indeed, the only other musician credited is a drummer named Daniel Wilson.
Leaving aside the novelty aspects of a one-man band, Luminous Eyes deserves your time and attention because it’s really well done. The label has (accurately) likened Haunt’s sound to early Iron Maiden, early Angel Witch, and early Def Leppard. For a more contemporary analogy, Luminous Eyes puts me very much in mind of classic Cauldron (especially on “As Fire Burns” and “Fallen Star”), but also makes me think of High Spirits and even a splash of Night Demon. Church has more than a little of that Jason Decay (Cauldron) timbre in his voice, even down to cadences and melody choices. There’s a raw, unpretentious, relaxed simplicity to the riffs, the guitar melodies, and the songwriting that recalls the Chris Black aesthetic on High Spirits’ recordings. And the prominent buzzsaw bass guitar – essentially operating like a second rhythm guitar – is a hallmark of the Night Demon sonic approach. Now, those are lofty comparisons because those three mentioned bands are aligned at the forefront of the traditional metal revival today. It remains to be seen, of course, whether Haunt belongs in that rarified company because we have only this four-song, 18-minute EP by which to evaluate the band. The true test of greatness is whether it can be cultivated and sustained through the crucible of a full-length recording, and we simply don’t have that from Haunt yet.
That said, Luminous Eyes is a really impressive starting point. It’s one of these rare albums where all of the elements – from the cover art to the production to the arrangements to the performances to the lyrics – are perfectly calibrated to capture the essence of early ‘80s heavy metal. There’s an authenticity, an honesty, a palpable sincerity to what Church has done here, like Luminous Eyes was crafted as a loving homage to the formative metal gods without coming across as a faceless copy. And I find the songs addictive and catchy as all hell, with massive replay value. The end result is that this EP is pretty much mandatory for devotees of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal or its modern-day counterpart in the NWOTHM movement. The exciting news is the revelation that Trevor Church has now assembled a full band, and Haunt will be playing live gigs this spring (including an appearance at the Hell’s Heroes Festival in Houston, Texas in April), with a full-length album to follow at some point. After this fantastic Luminous Eyes appetizer, I can hardly wait for the main course!
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~