At a point in time where most bands take at least two years between albums, HAUNT's generous prolificity has been a real treat over the last couple of years. Not content with producing some of the best doom metal of recent years with BEASTMAKER, frontman and creative mastermind Trevor Church clearly had some extra fire in his belly when he launched HAUNT and their exuberant paeans to all things traditional in metal and hard rock. The result is that "Mind Freeze" is the band's third record in as many years and, somewhat against the odds you might think, their finest by some margin. Where a lot of other retro-minded metal bands get bogged down in surface details and painstaking reproduction of an era they never directly experienced, HAUNT have been all about the songs and the vibe from the very start. And while both 2017's "Burst Into Flame" and last year's "If Icarus Could Fly" were full of invigorating moments, "Mind Freeze" feels like the moment where Church's refined hybrid of THIN LIZZY, ANGEL WITCH, early MAIDEN and slightly later PRIEST takes on its own identity and simply becomes the HAUNT sound.
Opener "Light The Beacon" is a brilliantly punchy starting point, with opulent helpings of twin-lead harmonizing and a hook so huge it can probably be seen from space. "Divide And Conquer" owes a more significant debt to US power metal than it does to the expected British pioneers, and it's a subtle change of emphasis that suits HAUNT perfectly, adding to the breadth of their vision in the process. Similarly, "Saviors Of Man" and "Have No Fear" incorporates synths and a faint whiff of psychedelic intent, coming across like a strange blend of early HELLOWEEN and BLUE OYSTER CULT. In less capable or classy hands, it could all seem like a cynical pastiche, but as they proved on those first two albums, HAUNT are breathing new life into this stuff, not just propping up a corpse. Unlike many of their backward-looking contemporaries, the Fresno quartet are making vital, exciting records that more than deserve respect in the modern metal world. Yes, this is aimed squarely at fans of the old school, but heavy metal thunder rarely sounds more alive or more explosively in the moment than it does here. Let's hope Church and his comrades keep the work rate up; we can definitely handle a lot more records like this.