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I simply do not understand the hate that The Haunted seems to attract. Some people cannot get over the fact that At The Gates split up and some of the main players in that band took a different angle. Others seem to slap the mallcore label or the less offensive melodic death metal label on the band. Do these people even know what nu metal sounds like for fuck's sake!
I pity the band for putting up with this bullshit, especially since all the musicians get less respect than they seem to deserve. At The Gates aside, Jensen has kicked arse in Witchery and Seance and other lesser known musicians such as Marco Aro and Per Moller Jensen have stepped up and delivered on this album. I'll be the first to admit this album isn't perfect but for a band I saw getting cheers from Slayer fans at London Forum, while plugging a supposedly less "brutal" album than this, it's pretty fucking classy.
First up, the opener "Dark Intentions". I was expected some nice calm intro like “The Premonition” from 'The Dead Eye' album, but it blew my fucking ears off the first time I heard it. No bullshit, just one or two catchy riffs and plenty of speed.
The pace doesn't let up for "Bury Your Dead" either. I don't pretend that this is a true classic, nor that I rate Aro as a vocalist more than Dolving, but this is three unpretentious minutes of heads-down bluster with a real killer of a solo by Anders Bjorler - not too fast or technical but just perfect for the song. The hooks are all there and count the number of good riffs! Perhaps the most cohesive song of the whole album, particularly the pleasing transition to the more groovy, slower riffs after the second chorus.
"Trespass" has the same catchy feel to it that so much modern thrash/melodeath/whatever-the-fuck-you-want-to-call-it is lacking. Simply, it sticks in my mind; there's no great vocal hooks like the previous song, but it's still a minor Haunted anthem in its own right.
"Leech" tries something a little different, which I admire the band for trying, but there's a bit less impact from the tremolo riffs and sections that vary in speed. Still, the changes have a more moody aspect to them, which I've always thought suits The Haunted really well and the vocals have more expression as well as another nicely thought out solo.
Now I'm a sucker for this middle section of the album. "Hollow Ground" is an absolute stormer, with two great riffs stomping all over the introduction and verse. The vocals and the lyrics hit their peak for me, with the curious effect that Aro uses on the chorus carrying straight into a faster solo and the next verse. The song flows beautifully from section to section with the guitars alternately billowing and pummelling almost without a difference between the two. Then the chorus kicks in slightly unexpectedly, providing a high point of the album for me. The outro section is very well judged and quite inspiring too.
Compared to the wistful overtones of the end of “Hollow Ground”, "Revelation" is like concrete connecting to face. In and out in a minute and a half, this is completely Aro's song as he rages almost constantly, with great energy. It takes a few listens to uncover some great thrashy riffs underneath as well, particularly the more spacious one after the second refrain of "...a blank revelation".
"The World Burns" does not fuck around either, but reins back some pace for groovy and explorative guitars that hark back to a less mellow "Hollow Ground", which wasn't exactly mellow itself. The chorus riff is pure genius and the fast solo after the chorus is very welcome after more considered lead moments earlier in the album. The slow middle section has me in two minds; firstly, it spoils the pace of the song, but it also leads incredibly well back into the riffs which largely redeems its errors. The last chorus has a great impact too.
Sadly, the album drops a little after this point, although "Human Debris" has a savage opening riff and more notable drumming than some of the other numbers. It reminds me a little of "Soul Fracture" from the band’s debut but not in a negative fashion. Some of the intensity does drift out of this one part way through, but the solo is bright and refreshing compared to Aro's fairly dry voice which does begin to grate by this point.
"Silencer" has an uninspiring opening riff, which trades with another better, catchier riff to better effect but though the chorus is paced pretty well, I don't rate the song too highly compared to some of the other numbers. Still not bad though and an effective ending.
"Under The Surface" is nothing terribly surprising and makes more use of Aro's strange vocal effect. The pace is overall a bit slower which actually helps it make an impact since the speed of the album can get a little overwhelming if taken all in one dose. There are pseudo-harmonies in some of the riffs which are pleasant but don't saturate the song with melody, which is the last thing on the band's mind in "Victim Iced".
It roars out of the gate, matching "Revelation" as the fastest thing on the album and has some truly brutal riffs. For anyone who wants proof of The Haunted's thrash credentials, please look no further. It's a great album closer, leaving you a bit hungry for more, but quite satisfied as well (i.e. it's tempting to start the album again).
I'm a fan of The Haunted who was less keen on their more recent, slower, melodic approach, but I completely have faith in the killing power of this album. Yes, there's thrash; no, there's no mallcore and while it might fall slightly short of the debut in terms of out-and-out quality, it possibly beats it in terms of songcraft and flow, standing more as a great album rather than a great collection of songs.