Vision Video’s 2021 breakthrough LP Inked In Red had appeal across a range of darker music fans; the blend of big melodies and strong rhythm work helped it get across to more general post-punk and darkwave listeners, while the fraught and often gloomy tone helped reinforce its goth rock appeal, especially when paired with singer and songwriter Dusty Gannon’s internet-famous Goth Dad persona. Follow-up Haunted Hours is a slightly different affair, in that it forgoes some of the more anxious elements of its predecessor for a dusky, melancholic, and autumnal atmosphere.
Which is not to say that the album is lacking anything in the way of energy. The propulsive aspects of Gannon’s songwriting is still very present in numbers like “Cruelty Commodity” and “Nothing Changes”, where sprightly tempos drive fast-moving chiming guitar lines and sweet tenorous vocals. The vitality in the delivery of the material is certainly an asset, as the title track demonstrates: where the lyrics work a classic down-to-mope portrait of lost love recalled, it has a dynamic and uplifting quality born from how the splashy arrangement of drums and synths keep pushing it skyward in spirit. It’s also an obvious and natural fit when revisiting the apprehension and restlessness of Inked In Red, as on “Death in the Hallway, a song that has the album’s standout chorus and richest use of keys.
The difficulty with the record is that while it has some nice singular moments, songs don’t feel especially distinct from one another. With a couple exceptions – the slower but still impactful lilt of single “Beautiful Day to Die”, the big anthemic build of penultimate track “Burn It Down” – songs pass by in a smeary blur of synth, guitar and gated reverb snares. The melodies are pleasant, the execution of the varied arrangements is good, but the variety and dynamism of the songs doesn’t prevent them from feeling samey. There’s a lack of hooks that plagues many of the tracks, and while it’s compensated for by the earnestness of the performances, a listener can be hard-pressed to remember anything specific about a number outside of broad generalities once its over.
That’s not a flaw that sinks Haunted Hours, although it does put it somewhat in the shadow of the record that came so recently before it; we know Vision Video can nail writing catchy songs consistently over the course of an LP, so having a suite of consistently good (and it should be emphasized, perfectly enjoyable) songs that grow hazy shortly after you hear them can’t help but be a bit disappointing. That said, Vision Video show they can deliver in the actual moment, and that they have enough verve and charm to keep things engaging.