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The Haunted used to be one of my very favourite bands and I recall that I was waiting for this album with baited breath. The band's first four albums are all aggressive, dangerous slabs of modern thrashy metal that would peel the skin off your face if you came too close to the speakers as you listened; the fifth album, 'The Dead Eye', was a departure from the aggressive sound and dropped the pace and groove for a more atmospheric experience that found a lot of hatred, but wasn't intrinsically poor, only unexpectedly different. Then came 'Versus' two years later - for all intents and purposes a comeback album. Since then, quality has been rather patchy, with a certain yo-yo effect going on between the two extremes of the band's sound, 'Unseen' presenting the mellower side again and the recent 'Exit Wounds' changing singers again in an attempt to regain some sense of direction.
'Versus' doesn't come down clearly on either side of the line. The Haunted will always be, for me, a heavy band first and foremost, with the ability to affect emotion and atmosphere a distant second place. 'Versus' was certainly an attempt to atone for the apparent sins of 'The Dead Eye': the heaviest songs load the front of the album, so that any doubtful fans would be reassured that the thrashy sound and riff-heavy approach was strongly represented, while the more experimental likes of 'Skuld' and 'Imperial Death March' would be allowable towards the end of the album, when 'Rivers Run' and 'Iron Mask' also slow the pace and focus on the band's wider sonic palette. I was not terribly impressed on first listen, though I think I was partly reacting to the disappointment that is inevitable with a favourite band - I am an ardent fan of the super-intense debut and little that The Haunted do can live up to its ferocious anger and blistering speed. The sound of the faster songs here tend less towards the thrash and melodeath influences of the earlier material and incorporate a greater sense of dynamics and a concerted effort for the guitars to produce hooks, rather than flat-out fury and headbanging fodder.
The guitar tone is not sharp at all (rounded seems fitting), which loses a good deal of the aggression from otherwise attacking songs like 'Moronic Colossus' and 'Little Cage', though Peter Dolving can still make any song sound furious at moments with his maddened hardcore vocals. However, he also introduces much more subtlety into his delivery, using a kind of intense baritone at times that suits the more relaxed feeling of the slower songs. That guitar tone, along with the vocal alterations, means that songs are shaped by hooks rather than melted by adrenaline: there are more catchy melodeath or modern heavy metal riffs here than ever before and Anders Björler plays almost exclusively melodic leads, which decorate songs instead of accelerating them. Just one lead really stands out in my mind as something different and that's on 'Faultline', which perhaps remains the highlight for me as it was on first listen. On this song, there are many types of riffs, a deliberate attempt to play fast in the bridge, and the solo sounds monumental and threatening as it looms up over the song's taut underbelly. Jonas Björler is no longer playing like a thrash metal bassist: his contribution to the album is much more focused on groove and detail, making the riffs fuller - not faster - and the atmospheric parts a little more complex, though not to any great effect. The strongest link to the band's heavier past is Per Moller Jensen, who still maintains a certain level of extremity on the drums, even if he is playing a more mixed style since 'rEVOLVEr'. He doesn't quite go at songs like on that album, but he gives about half the numbers here a good whack and his fills are still great.
As for the songs here, some of them work and some of them don't quite make it. The more atmospheric numbers I could take or leave depending on my mood: the two shorter experimental tracks are weak and don't add much, while 'Rivers Run' is probably the best among them, with a real sense of emotion and an interesting wandering quality. Of the fast songs, 'Crusher' and 'Ceremony' are both decent but far from exciting, while the opening four songs are all strong ('Trenches' is a mix between the riffy and the textured material), as well as 'Faultline'. For those expecting brutality and aggressive momentum, there will be disappointment; for those approaching The Haunted without preconceptions, there should be a limited appreciation and some puzzlement about the band's past and future.
The Haunted are back, and so is their unique sound. On all their albums with Dolving as the vocalist, the Haunted have churned out aggressive, yet disturbing, no haunting, metal. That's not to say I didn't enjoy the albums with Marco, they were good too (especially The Haunted Made Me Do It). But Dolving provides the sound that makes the them The Haunted.
Versus is different, yet the same. Rather than continuing down the path they laid out with The Dead Eye, they took steps closer to the straight-up, no-nonsense metal of their debut. There are still some of the same tricks and sounds that were used on rEVOLVEr and The Dead Eye, such as in Little Cage, Skuld, Rivers Run, and Trenches. Other songs grab you by the neck and jam huge riffs down your throat, such as Crusher, Faultline, and Ceremony. The end product is a combination of the raw thrash authority with flares of the dark melodies and effects that they have become known for.
Dolving delivers another stunning performance, and once again you can feel his anger spilling out from his vocals. He employs a variety of techniques, including clean singing, his signature scream, and a "whisper" of sorts (specifically during Skuld).
The album was recorded "live" with everything but the vocals happening at the same time, in the same room. This helped create the raw power of the album, but it also means multiple songs start with tap-ins (Ceremony, Crusher), which gets a bit old. This same technique was used on their self-titled debut, and it tends to produce solid results. The biggest downside is that the mix levels seem to be about the same for each track (for obvious reasons), which takes away a bit of the diversity.
The drumming provides a solid basis for the album, although it's not a particularly complex. Some double-bass runs provide added thunder, but they aren't on every track (nor do they need to be). The rhythm section provides support on this album, rather than being the focus. The guitar-work is potent and heavy, but not overly intricate. Once again, with the Haunted's style of music, it doesn't really need to be. The solos are delivered in a similar to how this band always has.
The first few times I listened, this album felt like it was missing something, but I couldn't quite put my finger on what. I still can't, but like all of their albums have, Versus is growing on me. It gets better every time I listen. It still feels like something just isn't there, but it's not a huge factor anymore.
Originally posted at http://audibleanarchy.blogspot.com/
This situation has happened before. Take a band who basically took their chosen style and pushed it further, and evolved with it every album, then they make a recording that “experiments” with a more popular form of music that moves way too far from their field, only it doesn’t get received very well. Could you call that an attempt to sell out? Maybe. After said “experimenting with more popular music album” doesn’t work out, bands typically have to get some redemption, meaning the redemption album could be the last record where they stop trying to move forward. If you’re guessing that this career path is exactly like road taken by The Haunted with their first four albums, then hitting a roadblock with the “experimenting with popular music” on “The Dead Eye”, you’d be correct, and now it’s time to redeem themselves with “Versus”.
Many have considered the large catalogue of albums from The Haunted to be of a very high quality, and I’d be in that camp. They’ve developed their own atmosphere of frightening violence and underground crime akin to the world of “Reservoir Dogs”, “The Usual Suspects” and “Pulp Fiction”, with both a significant amount of entertainment and a little bit of social commentary as well. While every album they’ve done has been a modernized version of thrash, every album has been different for the band, with small hints of experimentation that helped push the genre forward. This time around they’ve done a slower, groove oriented version of “rEVOLVEr” with a lot less experimentation. The gritty blues twang on “Skuld” is nearly a country song, or at the very least is a little southern, an certainly wouldn’t be out of place on “rEVOLVEr”, and pretty much stands out as the song that’s different from their standard thrash attack, yet they still make it fit.
There are two downsides to “Versus” however, the first being that it’s a whole like like “rEVOLVEr”, which while a great album, it’s difficult to compete by making a nearly direct sequel. The second problem stems from some of the lost intensity and tempo drop from “The Dead Eye” which is still present in many ways. Go back to some earlier albums from The Haunted, and the slow songs seem slow mostly by comparison to the earlier generation of songs from The Haunted, but play a fast new song, or any new song beside an old one and the sharp, top speed playing and intensity has noticeably been toned down, along with much of the danger, and the feeling that the album could fall to pieces at any second yet somehow manages to make it to the end has been lost.
It’s still tough to fault The Haunted, as the songs still have their own signature fingerprint that no one else has been able to match, along with some extremely memorable riffs and vocals you’ll sing along to, or perhaps attempt to scream along with most of the time.
Originally posted at www.waytooloud.com
I have always loved The Haunted. The Dead Eye was a masterpiece and I knew it was going to be tough to top that. I still had hopes for The Haunted, because bands recently have been trying to get back to their roots. I bought the regular edition and popped it in.
I heard Moronic Colossus on myspace and said, "Wow, this new album is going to be really good". I dig that song, but as I listened to the album, it seemed that was the only song that stood out. Now, I don't want to be one of those people who hates an album because every song sounds the same. But, that is fact on this album. No songs stand out. Every song besides Moronic Colossus is the same as the song before it. This album reminded me of a Meshuggah album more then anything because Meshuggah likes to do those albums that just have one track on it, 40 minutes long.
But in defense of my previous paragraph, this is not a bad album. It's a typical Haunted album. It's very fast paced, it's got somewhat catchy riffs and Dolving does what he is meant to do in the band.
I wouldn't really recommend this album. An album to recommend would be The Dead Eye, but this is nothing special. No songs stand out and there are only two songs on the album I could listen over and over.
Song Recommendations: Moronic Colossus and Ceremony.
Here they are with the (almost) original line-up, engaged in the nth attempt to give a worthy follow-up to the debut album.
And you can hear at once that even "Versus" is not the right album to put the crown back upon Jensen's band, mainly because his violent/burning/fast riffing are missing, and despite the late The Haunted have many strong points, like the production at the usual Antfarm Studios (with Tue Madsen), that represents the state of the art in 2008, or like the screaming vocals of Peter Dolving who, even now that tries to sing for real, fears no match.
The riffing is too foreseeable and without excitement, evoking the idea of a tired blacksmith who strikes down just for habit, without the original will to disrupt the anvil. And even in the parts that would desire to be progressive, but which are only some uselessly stretched slow scores, the main effect is to bore. Also the arrangements instead of plugging the holes open some wide sore, just think of the irritating drumming of Per Moller Jensen (he just keeps the beats, and nothing more!) or of the prolonged absence of the Bjorler brothers, on holiday as usual.
Jensen has lost any blood thirst, the highest he can go to that is drinking a lemonade. PS: who knows who is the "Moronic Colossus" of the first song, the single track to remain stuck in your mind.
The Haunted. A band that saw thrash through its darkest years with only this band and Sodom's M16 album to sate the tastes of lovers of extremely fast heavy metal. Formed from the ashes of At the Gates but arising like the phoenix itself to conquer a new genre. Now with their new album, they're competing for sales with Metallica, Holy Moses and Trivium this September, but this has never been a band to back away from a challenge and the Bjorler bros may not surpass the new Metallica album in terms of quality, but I'll be damned I said that this album isn't better than the other two.
The first thing that you'll notice upon the first listen is that it is a lot more aggressive than The Dead Eye but still has enough tracks that are less thrashy and more experimental, which will cater more towards the previous album's fans. All taken, it's a solid thrash album for 2008. It's just a shame that all the good albums from the genre are coming out in the same month and we all know who's going to win in terms of sales.
The first five tracks are incredibly fast and aggressive and recall the sound of their first album which is a good thing given that they haven't really done that since Peter Dolving came back into the band and got them to go in a more experimental direction. Of the first five tracks, the best is the opener Moronic Colossus due to its sheer catchiness. Not that the four following tracks are bad by any means, its just that Moronic Colossus is just that good of a track and I wouldn't be surprised if it becomes the first single from the album.
By the time that the album comes to the track Skuld, the sound of The Dead Eye returns with a very atmospheric and percussion-heavy beginning with some chants that give the track the feel of an old western movie. However the following track goes back to being thrashy again and is appropriately named Crusher and sounds so much heavier than it is due to it following up such a soft song beforehand. The next two tracks are more in the experimental vein, and are followed up by another thrashy track and then a slow grinding number at the end that's reminiscent of Strapping Young Lad's Bring on the Young and ends with Peter Dolving sounding like a southern preacher.
In the end, it plays like two EPs rather than one single album, but the songs are good enough to not detract from that. However, I can't really recommend a purchase given that Metallica's new album is just so much better. This album's undoing simply has much more to do with timing than it does with its actual sound. Than again, when has timing mattered to The Hunted?