For some, it’s time to unlearn what you have learned
Watching bands evolve as they progress from album to album is always interesting, not only from a fan point of view (something which needs to be put to one side when reviewing else a conflict of interest potentially appears) but also from a reviewer’s perspective as well. Some bands stumble and recover brilliantly such as Machine Head. Some bands crash and burn like a train wreck like Metallica. Other bands shine such as Carcass! ‘Nuff said.
But when you look at a band like Sweden’s The Haunted, after flying the flag for modern day thrash with their killer self titled effort from 1997 and equally brutal follow ups in Made Me Do It (1999) and 2001’s One Kill Wonder, the return of much lauded vocalist Peter Dolving in 2004 has seen the band chop and change tact over the course of 2004’s rEVOLVEr, 2006’s The Dead Eye and 2008’s Versus. They’ve clearly shifted beyond the boundaries of thrash and melodic death metal and all indications from Dolving’s internet posts prior to the release of the band’s seventh album, titled Unseen, suggested that this one would be the band’s most adventurous outing to date.
He was right.
But whilst Never Better delivers in stomping opener in the vein of rEVOLVEr or Versus, it’s the pedestrian like No Ghost that shows the band’s first steps into a brave new world; one that is more progressive than we’ve ever seen before from this quintet. It’ll scare the shit out of some and make them clutch their copy of The Haunted’s self titled CD screaming “There’s no place like home,” but those people will simply go their own way, just as The Haunted have chosen to go theirs. Dolving forewarned fans that the winds of change were coming and he was true to his word. As dark as Catch 22 and Disappear are, you simply cannot deny the Tool/A Perfect Circle like vibe that they both relish in. Dolving’s vocals even have that Maynard Keenan like croon to them at times – like it or lump it, that’s how it is.
The likes of Motionless and The City could all be generalised as falling in the boundaries of what you’d expect from Versus or rEVOLVEr whilst the likes of The Skull falls somewhere in between the band’s last three releases. But when Dolving screams, “Fuck your pride. It’ll be your downfall,” you could almost believe he’s shooting that arrow directly at the band’s thrash or nothing fans. Maybe that’s just how I see things, but it could be interpreted that way for sure. The Tool like Unseen and the surprisingly catchy All Ends Well reek of The Dead Eye in a good way, and the same could be said of the closer Done, which ends abruptly but also has a feel not unlike My Shadow which wrapped up rEVOLVEr in stellar fashion.
Ocean Park feels like the bonus studio track Infernalis Mundi (recorded during the Versus sessions) which first appeared on The Haunted’s 2010 release, Road Kill. Take it or leave it really. The big thing for me was the vibe of the Them. It’s a varied but generally up tempo number with one hell of a chorus. Those that know me know I rate the Foo Fighter’s Everlong (from 1997’s The Colour and The Shape) very highly. Not only is it a brilliant song but the dynamics of the build up to and the actual chorus itself are amazing. Well, Them has that same kinda feel for me – an epic build up and very cool dynamics.
If you expected, or hoped, The Haunted would bring on Versus part two, or return to the likes of their formative releases, then you will be disappointed. In fact, I suspect there will be more than a few who will struggle with the dynamics of Unseen. I’ll admit that it surprised the hell out of me as I spun it over and over again upon first receiving the album. I couldn’t “get” it. Over time, I did. This is a band that is not afraid to colour outside the lines or venture outside the safety of whatever pigeon hole they slotted into. Unseen will click with fans of the band’s post return-of-Dolving era material. It will take a few listens, but if you like a challenge, you’ll be well rewarded.
(Century Media Records/EMI Music Australia)