Heshers with their ear to the ground, or rather to the skyward sounds of heavy metal triumph, caught something special last year with the release of Burst Into Flame, the debut album by Fresno riff-slingers Haunt. And unless those listeners were total dweebs, they immediately experienced some of the most fun sounds in heavy metal today. That’s not an exaggeration or a hot take. This band—steeped in metal tradition from Priest to Maiden, NWOBHM to even Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy and Boston—is unrepentant in their pursuit of hooks, riffs, and sweat-drenched moments of glory.
It turns out that not only are Haunt seemingly unparalleled in their ability to sneak perfect pop choruses and vocal harmonies into songs chock full of glorious dual-lead guitar riffs, they manage to do so at a pace that few others can keep up with. Less than a year after the release of their debut, the California quartet have issued If Icarus Could Fly, an eight-track encore of pitch-perfect heavy metal anthems that stand up to some of the best metal being made today while doing right by their battle-vested heroes. Within the first 30 seconds of opening track “Run and Hide,” there’s a lightning-fingered guitar solo, the first of several in the song, and the momentum is both marathon and sprint, racing through the full duration of the nearly five-minute track, climaxing with a chant of “Stand up! And fight!” in its heroic bridge. It’s enough to make you want to start Ironman training sessions or challenging Thor to an arm-wrestling match.
While If Icarus Could Fly is relatively brief at a bit over a half-hour in length, it feels both substantial and overflowing with highlights. “Clarion” is power pop disguised as speed metal, “Ghosts” is a case for why there’s no better sound in the world than two electric guitars in perfect harmony, and “Defender,” despite being the closing track, is arguably the catchiest and most soaring of any track here. So, it seems, Haunt have once again succeeded at making one of the year’s most infectiously fun heavy metal records, a platter worthy of spinning repeatedly, best paired with denim, leather and six-packs of American pilsner. Or whatever makes you feel comfortable as you imagining yourself felling giants as Haunt scores the journey.