Haunter - Sacramental Death Qualia

By Evan Mester

Without any initial fanfare, Sacramental Death Qualia explodes into a cacophony of bellowing roars and sinister, distorted guitars. Almost immediately, my mind harkens back to those first seconds of Blood Incantation’s Virtufication of Blood Pt 1, which commences in a similarly abyssal nature. In only a matter of seconds, I was hooked, eagerly anticipating what other surprises that Haunter intended to unleash throughout the duration of their sophomore LP.

On more than one occasion, Haunter has drastically reinvented their sound, so much so that a term as hyperbolic as genre-hopping is in fact appropriate. highly-anticipated as a blackened screamo outfit in 2013, the San Antonio-based band had transitioned into writing abrasive, yet atmospheric black metal akin to the works of Rahu and early Ash Borer. With their back catalogue of raw and aggressive recordings, not only was another shift in sound from Haunter unexpected but with their newest record, the Texan three-piece sounds like an entirely different band. Yet what truly makes Haunter so special is their ability to innovate while amid already reinventing themselves. 

Bradley Tiffin, Mark Cruz, Marcos Montez and Enrique Bonilla of Haunter

Bradley Tiffin, Mark Cruz, Marcos Montez and Enrique Bonilla of Haunter

While the angular and riff-focused songwriting of the record is captivating in its own right, the addition of eerily psychedelic passages interspersed between the chaos elevates Sacramental Death Qualia among 2019’s best extreme metal releases. Similar to the moody and gothic moments of levity found on those early Opeth records that I obsessed over in high school, the arrangement of these breaks makes for a cinematic listening experience. In addition to how it sets up Sacramental Death Qualia’s gorgeous and grand atmosphere, the constant ebb and flow between brutality and beauty on ‘Spoils Vultured Upon Sole Deletion’ and the title track of the record also go to show Haunter’s near mastery of dynamic songwriting. Melancholic dirges seamlessly transition into cosmic riffage and clamour. Its cavernous death metal grit metamorphosing into ghostly clean guitar passages offers a sonic refrain whilst maintaining tension. Ready to explode once more at any given moment, Sacramental Death Qualia is an absolute thrill of a listen from start to finish.

Whether or not Sacramental Death Qualia ends up being recognized by critics as one of the year’s best death metal releases is beside the point. In a year packed with highly-anticipated albums from the likes of Tomb Mold to Gatecreeper, I’m not sure that Haunter will get the widespread acclaim that they have overwhelmingly earned with their new LP. Nevertheless, this record evokes feelings of nostalgia and sentimentality unlike any other release in recent memory. A coalescence of the exploratory and grimy death metal I listen to today with the progressive metal projects that served as made up the bulk of my high school playlists, Sacramental Death Qualia is a profound reminder of the things that got me invested in music in the first place while also exemplifying the factors that keep me engaged.

You can listen to their latest release here!: https://hauntertx.bandcamp.com/album/sacramental-death-qualia