Black metal succeeds when it feels composed and summoned, not necessarily spewn forth or thrown together with even creative haphazard. Owning to the genre's penchant for atmospherics and abstraction -- two things which bleed some bands dry compositionally -- writing coherent but still extreme black metal actually doubles the difficulty. Some of this feels like a balancing game (e.g. ensuring ranges of slow to fast tempos and vocals which aren't monolithic), and one band in particular that pretty much nails the fulcrum is Texas-based project Haunter. They're an underground pressure-cooker of creativity, and their most multifaceted diamond is about to form: their upcoming second full-length Sacramental Death Qualia. We've got the album's opening track streaming below.



"Dispossessed Phrenic Antiquity" rips and roars its way through its nine-and-a-half minute runtime, but dodges instead of breaks any obstacles in the way. Potential for muddy sound? Nope, the band has enlisted Brendan Sloan to master the new album, so you know it'll sound top-notch nasty and sharp. Potential for overly convoluted song structures? Nope, the band has woven complex threads of instrumental calisthenics into an easily chartable emotional framework. On that point, Sacramental Death Qualia has a definitive wavelength of emotion and intensity which waxes and wanes along with the music's intricacies.

It's all very haunting, actually, how obtuse and angular "Dispossessed Phrenic Antiquity" is without mangling your brain into mush. The rest of Sacramental Death Qualia follows suit, of course, with Haunter for sure entering their strongest work to date on a discography of sinister music.

We had the chance to exchange some messages with Haunter members Enrique Bonilla and Bradley Tiffin about Sacramental Death Qualia.



What does the concept of “change” mean for Haunter, both with respect to the complexly ever-shifting nature of the music itself as well as band progressions from release to release?

Bonilla: Change is certainly a constant and an absolute necessary for us as a group of artists that are trying to do something unique in Haunter. This release has seen a lot of change with the addition of Marcos [Montez] to bass and Bradley’s transition to guitar. It’s given us a lot of room to play with our arrangements and songwriting. We’re drawing further and further outside the lines with each release and as we grow closer as bandmates. We’re also incredibly lucky to have someone like Luciano at I, Voidhanger that is passionate about unique and uncompromising metal.

Does Sacramental Death Qualia tell a narrative or a story, or does it assume some other form in terms of its lyrical content?

Tiffin: SDQ is the first full-length where Enrique wrote most of the lyrics, which I would adjust his drafts to fit vocal patterns or take a small twist while fitting the overall subject matter. The speech is generally wordy and ambiguous with ill-fitted leaders and plots to extinguish their influence and power in secrecy for vain attempt of self-pedestaling. I feel the lyrics read like a high-ruler assassinated by a damascene-sheathed dagger.

What did you see in the artwork of Elijah Tamu which resonated with you in light of the new album?

Tiffin: Elijah absolutely knocked the cover out of the park on the first draft he had sent to us. He is consistently distinct with his art across the variation of bands he’s worked with, with each piece being impressively individualistic. Couldn’t have asked for anything better.

Bonilla: I was impressed when I saw his sigil work about three years ago. After chatting online and tossing around the idea of him working on the album art, I got the chance to hang out with him briefly in Chicago last year. We chatted over some Dominican food in Pilsen and he was just a great person all around. Couldn’t have picked a better artist to bring this record to life visually. Thanks Elijah!

Looks like you’re on tour in October… what is Haunter’s focus on the live performance with respect to Sacramental Death Qualia? Have these new songs brought any new personal energy to the stage?

Bonilla: We’ve definitely had to become tighter as a band with these new songs. There are more dynamics and moving parts in these songs than ever before so the live aspect is always challenging in a very rewarding way. I think we’d all get bored if we weren’t having a hard time playing our music. So we’re definitely focusing on moving out of our comfort zone in terms of technicality.

Tiffin: The transition from bass to guitar for shows including the material from SDQ was imperative for performing many of the sequences. The live performances from the first six months with Marcos in the band displayed a steady climb toward solidity. We’re solid now. Being able to perform vocals and play busy guitar parts was a decent hurdle to acclimate to, but I’m more at home because all of the songs were initially written on guitar.

How was it working with Brendan Sloan for mastering? The music he releases via Convulsing is great, and I’m wondering what edge of his own he may have brought to the album’s final sound.

Tiffin: Brendan is a gift to the sect of metal that we play. His approach to the guitar is something I identify myself with greatly. Between our mutual respect, influences, and his headspace in which he resides and pumps out banger King riffs (see Convulsing) made him the clear number one contender to make the final touches for SDQ responsibly. The guitar articulation (something that failed to be achieved on Thrinodía), glisten in the cymbals, and the claustrophobia within the vocal staging are all enhanced by his grand execution.

Even though hindsight may always be sharper (feel free to debate this), what intersection does Sacramental Death Qualia mark on Haunter’s musical journey? Where does it go from here, and does the band ever look back in any way?

Bonilla: SDQ is a step in the direction we been tryna go for. It's definitely the first step of many we’re taking as a four-piece. We’re proud of our previous work, but we’re not looking back. There is already some material written for a new release. We’re eager for tour in October and trying to get out of the country once again in 2020.


Sacramental Death Qualia releases September 13th via I, Voidhanger on LP and CD, and digital, with cassettes by Tartarus Records. The band will be on tour starting this October (dates below).


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