Released just a year after Fallow Field, the Old Haunts' sophomore album, Fuel on Fire, serves up a more focused and nuanced version of their stomping, spiky garage punk. This time around, their lumbering rhythms and prickly riffs owe less to their influences (although Craig Extine's nasal, raspy, vibrato-heavy voice still recalls Jack White or Robert Plant from time to time), and the slightly cleaner production makes Fuel on Fire feel less like some lost, decades-old mutant punk album than Fallow Field did. That's not to say that any of the weirdness or energy of the band's debut has been sacrificed, though -- if anything, the Old Haunts sound more distinctive on Fuel on Fire than they did on their debut, and many of the album's best moments are loud and haunting at the same time. "Civil Savage" kicks off Fuel on Fire with heavy slabs of noise mixed with intricate, spidery guitar parts borrowed from surf and rockabilly -- a trick the band repeats on the pissed-off title track -- and the album's closer, "Scarlet Hall," is nigh-on apocalyptic. In between, Fuel on Fire's tracks range from relatively straightforward rockers to songs that spin off in unexpected directions. A few songs ("Death on the Sickbed," "Culture of Prey") are a little samey, but "Wasted Day," which spreads out with a spooky piano coda, and "Into a New Room," which pairs the album's poppiest, most lighthearted music with lyrics like "I've seen my skin severed but I have never been broken through the bone," show that the more ambitious, varied approach the Old Haunts took on Fuel on Fire paid off. Fallow Field revealed that they were an intriguing band to begin with, but -- despite its slight unevenness -- this album proves that the Old Haunts' odd brand of hellfire is truly compelling.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares