Haust- Negative Music (Album Review)

May 13, 2024


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Although I didn’t come across Haust until their 2013 album No, the Norwegian punk band formed back in 2001 and put out material at a steady pace in their earlier days.  On albums like 2005’s Ride the Relapse the group had something of a black metal meets punk aesthetic, opting for songs that kept the short bursts of the latter while utilizing the tonality of the former.  By the time I heard them Haust had started to transform into something a bit different, and this was best demonstrated by 2015’s Bodies where the black metal was significantly reduced in favor of everything from post punk to garage rock.  It was an eclectic effort that balanced pop hooks with some aggressive edges, but the band would go silent on the recording front for some time after its release.  Fast forward to 2024 and Haust has re-emerged with their original lineup back in place, making their sixth album Negative Music a return to those more stripped-down days.  Yet even with the bleaker and colder sound, there are still genuine hooks to be found here that will keep listeners coming back for more.

Regression feels like the wrong word to use about Negative Music, as the group’s songwriting hasn’t lost some of the catchiness that emerged on albums like No and Bodies, but compared to the amount of stylistic influences that were present on that album this effort is much more stripped down.  Tracks come in hard and fast, as opener “Left to Die” lets a little bit of feedback hover over the recording before the band comes in with a slow burning verse.  Here they let the tempo linger for a bit as the colder black metal tonality starts to seep in, and once that reaches a natural peak the pace picks up into a more hardcore/punk inspired sound.  It’s noticeably darker when compared to some of the brighter spots in Haust’s discography, and in this regard the album lives up to its title.  Negative Music spends much of its time moving between faster heavy hitting tracks and slower burns like “Turn to Stone” and “Something Evil” where the bleaker and grittier tonality has time to spread outwards.  It’s an approach that works well for the band, and I appreciate some of the small touches like the ominous bells that end “Dead Ringer” and lead into the “Where Evil Dwells” interlude as well as the creepy piano on “The Vanishing”.  At times the riff structure leans into some of the more punk leaning types of black metal, and there are tracks where Negative Music sounds very close to Taake’s more recent output.  There are a few moments that blend together over repeat listens as the leads are just a bit too similar but given the shorter album length this doesn’t hurt Haust’s latest effort that much.

The band may have gone through some lineup changes over the past two decades, but Vebjørn Guttormsgaard Mølleberg has remained a constant across Haust’s discography and he has one of those pitches that is instantly recognizable.  The vocal work is very distorted and raspy, sometimes bringing Gollum from Lord of the Rings to mind, and yet despite sounding ghoulish the lyrical content is really easy to make out.  During the years Haust ventured into post punk and other musical styles the abrasiveness of the screaming/singing was sometimes jarring with some of the cleaner melodies, but here it only seems to enhance the grittiness of the material.  On tracks like “Back to Nothing” the instrumentals and vocals work in tandem to send chills down your spine, and this works to Negative Music’s advantage.  There are also some backing pitches that help to break up the extremity of Mølleberg, with “I’m Not Here For You” bringing in some even lower screams/growls and “Something Evil” utilizing chanting.

I have to admit that I was initially a little disappointed with the pivot away from some of the post punk and other experimentation from Bodies, as songs like “Body Melt” are ones I’ve spun regularly in the eight years since its release.  But the more time I spent with Negative Music, the more it started to grow on me and the pivot back towards a dark and gritty black metal and punk sounds still suits Haust.  There are some songs that blur together and feel just a bit too similar, but just as many moments nail that balance between abrasive and catchy which makes this album have plenty of staying power.  If you’re looking for something that both kicks you in the teeth and has you tapping your foot at the same time, Haust is a great fit.  Negative Music is available from Fysisk Format Records.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg