For Fans Of
The Haunted are one of the Gothenburg metal scene archetypes. Alongside fellow Swedish thrashers including In Flames and Dark Tranquillity, over the years they have helped popularize a style of metal with such an idiosyncratic sound that it’s become linked to its place of origin. Indeed, the `Gothenburg sound’ may have spawned around the mid 1990s but it continues to be emulated, imitated and re-packaged by countless metal bands the world over to this very day. This being said, when you’re a pioneer in your field and you reach album number seven, where do you go? In the case of The Haunted, you take all the musical ingredients that have come to define you up to this point and build on them with less familiar elements that take your sound in an altogether new direction.
Upon first listen, `Never Better’ seems to announce Unseen as another clear chapter in The Haunted chronology – vocalist Peter Dolving’s tormented vocals are delivered thick and fast above a choppy riff that is bound to entice plenty of disjointed headbanging in a live setting. It’s a trademark Haunted tune that doesn’t really digress from what they’ve done in the past. However, with progression the album slowly opens up with a newfound creative spark and experimental incline. `No Ghost’ ditches their usual full-throttle thrash attack and instead settles into a dirty southern rock swagger with bluesy guitars that wail and moan- a style the band has not really been renowned for in the past. It sounds like the band jamming with Down or Clutch and provides a refreshing reincarnation of their sound. Elsewhere, `Ocean Park’ introduces a brief acoustic ballad while `The Skull’ enters progressive rock territory with an ambient beginning that builds into thunderous riffing before an epic sized chorus. It’s moments like these that demonstrate the band broadening their artistic palette, melding their trademark metal with other influences while retaining a sound that will not alienate their core fans.
Another defining characteristic of Unseen is the way the band has eased off their usually break-neck tempos in favour of songs with more grooves, hooks and harmonies. In the past, The Haunted have tended to sound like they’re playing fast for the sake of playing fast, disregarding any subtly with blisteringly heavy songs that go straight for the jugular. Unseen differs from this approach with mid-tempo numbers like `Disappear’ and the title-track, which are epic sized tracks that feature an atmospheric mix of layered guitars and harmonic singing. Both songs feature tasteful lead playing from Anders Björler and surprisingly memorable choruses from Dolving, consequently demonstrating his flexible vocal range. In fact, while he may exercise his demons with ferocious howls one minute, Dolving demonstrates an ability to coin a truly heartfelt chorus when he sings `I lay me down to sleep and disappear’ above the band’s heavy rhythmic backbone during `Disappear’. It’s poignant without the need for the band’s usual sonic intensity.
Although there are moments during the album where the band experiments with creating a certain mood, there’s also plenty of straight-forward thrash attacks akin to past material. `The City’, `Motionless’ and `Them’ will please fans who prefer the band’s music loud, fast and abrasive and, like the rest of the album, these cuts are beefed up by another solid mixing job courtesy of Tue Madsen.
This album is a coming of age for The Haunted, with the lead track `Never Better’ providing an adequate summation of their recent songwriting. Those wanting another Made Me Do It or Revolver might as well listen to the army of bands out there recycling The Haunted’s past cuts, but if you’re after an album pushing the thrash genre forward, Unseen justifies a spot in the limelight as a sturdy addition to this year’s metal releases.
1. Never Better
2. No Ghost
3. Catch 22
7. The Skull
8. Ocean Park
9. The City
11. All Ends Well