Singing about God can be traced as far back as primitive civilizations. Fast forward a couple of thousand years and, to speak nothing of other super popular and diverse contemporary Christian music, cross-over acts like the now dismantled Pedro the Lion or Sufjan Stevens helped push the secular world into mainstream music. In our sphere, blog favourites We Are The City openly sing of their relationship with God. So needless to say the religious aspect of Refuge by Montreal band Old Haunt not what’s jarring. It’s frontman Lucas Huang’s treatment of spirituality in this collection of hymns and gospel songs that’s completely enthralling. Whether you’re religious or not, it’s in the band name, Old Haunt will haunt you.
There’s an unsettling quality about Refuge right from the start – its cover art an ominous and simple white arrow pointing downward on a unclear and blackened background. To make things even darker, Huang, alongside multi-instrumentalist Matt Rogalsky, shroud the EP with heavy reverb – as if in an effort to replicate the echo in a large cathedral. To top it off, Huang delivers his lyrics in a sharp sing/speak manner, a devotional cadence that entrancing.
“Get Back Satan,” the pinnacle of Refuge and a cover of Rev. Roger L Worthy‘s song, is a simple yet powerful proclamation of faith. Huang’s staccato delivery in each repetition of “get back satan,” in his chilling higher-register, acts like flashes of light puncturing the darkness (evil) that surrounds the EP’s lyrics. Amongst the unfaltering rhythm of “Come Ye Sinners,” based on the hymn written by 18th century Calvinist minister Joseph Hart, this religious devotion is found again and is beautifully asserted in the final verse when Huang, with peace in his voice, sings: “I will rise and go to Jesus/he shall keep me safe from harm.”
The EP’s final track is a boisterous cover of Blind Willie Johnson‘s “City of Refuge” (originally titled “I’m Gonna Run to the City of Refuge”). It’s here where Old Haunt outright say what they have been implying throughout the EP – their unwavering faith, channeled by Huang, will rise up and protect them from all evil.
Top Track: “Get Back Satan”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)