Swedes follow up in style with their heaviest in some time
Let's see a show of hands from fans of The Haunted who were surprised by their last release, The Dead Eye (2006)? Hmm as I suspected. Hell I raised my own hand to that question as well. It still sounded like The Haunted, which has a lot to do with Peter Dolving's world hating vocals, but musically it was very different and if the truth be known, it polarised the band's fans to an extent too. But to an extent it was business as usual for Dolving, guitarists Patrik Jensen and Anders Bjorler, bassist Jonas Bjorler and drummer Per Moller Jensen. Some two odd years on, their sixth studio effort, simply titled Versus is about to drop and it's an interesting move for the group indeed. It combines some of the more progressive elements of The Dead Eye but it also contains more of the aggression found on the likes of rEVOLVEr and to an extent, their flawless self titled debut from 1997.
Record pops, clicks and samples aside, the opening cut Moronic Colossus launches at you like a fired up pitbull. It's possibly their most aggressive track in some time with not only Dolving's vocals snarling with plenty of bite but the music itself is more than just a little pissed off. The aggro flows seamlessly into the slightly more melodic Pieces which feels like it could have come from somewhere around their The Haunted Made Me Do It era (sans Marco Aro's vocals at that time of course) akin to the likes of Hollow Ground if anything. The band unleash hell with Little Cage which soon proves to be quite dynamic, particularly Dolving's vocals as he switches between varying states of madness. Even the mid paced Trenches delivers heaviness that you wouldn't expect from a tune such as this whilst Ceremony has a distinct rEVOLVEr feel to it.
But The Haunted isn't just a one trick pony. They've shown us in the past that they can sucker punch us at any point, and the dark and moody Skuld has a My Shadow (from 2004's rEVOLVEr) vibe to it, albeit not quite as epic like. Dolving's whispered vocals are as sinister and threatening as any screaming he does. In fact, if anything they are even more unhinged. True to its name is the thrashing speed of Crusher whilst the slower, mid pace assault of Rivers Run, the excellent Iron Mask and the pumping Faultline are all latter day The Haunted in absolutely fine form. It may sound like something from Star Wars, but the finale, Imperial Death March, is anything but as it delivers a barrage of plodding, thundering rhythms.
Those out there who missed The Haunted's furious thrash on The Dead Eye can take comfort in their latest effort. Versus is a return to the band's thrashing best but not at the expense of variety of their more recent material. Clearly though, Versus is a strong contender within the Top 10 metal albums of 2008 as The Haunted show once again just why they are one of the most dynamic metal acts of today's metal scene.
(Century Media Records/Stomp Distribution)