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Redemption After the "Pop Metal Experiment" Album - 70%

Shirt_Guy, January 26th, 2009

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.

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