Strength in Numbers
Century Media Records/Sony Music Australia
Reviewed By Simon Milburn
When I think of The Haunted, I think of persistence. Vocalists have come and gone, and returned and gone again. Guitarists have left. Drummers have left and returned. Could they be Sweden’s answer to Megadeth in regards to their line-up changes over the past two decades? Probably not. I think it is safe to say there is daylight between the two bands in that regard for sure. Full credit to this quintet though. As well as riding the waves of personnel changes, over the course of their discography they have also explored different aspects and styles of metal as well producing varying levels of success.
After the band’s 2013 overhaul that saw only two original members remain in the band’s ranks, the result a year later was Exit Wounds, a full on riff fest that shared more in common with 2003’s One Kill Wonder than the band’s earlier thrash inspired work or the band’s more adventurous releases that followed. After returning to the studio with their current line-up still intact, the result is Strength in Numbers, the band’s ninth studio album and it is clear that the band seem even more comfortable than before.
It is a little odd though because this album took a number of listens before it really registered with me. Perhaps because Strength in Numbers is more of a mixed bag of styles as opposed to the relentless thrash fest of the band’s legendary first two releases, or the more progressive nature of The Dead Eye for example. There is plenty of thrash, tonnes of aggression, some groove, and a couple of other surprises as well. Most importantly, the whole album works well is a good step up from Exit Wounds.
As the strumming of acoustic guitars on “Fill the Darkness with Black” introduces us to The Haunted two decades on from their self-titled debut, to me, it’s a sure fire indication of things settling within the band as they embark on exploring more variation this time around. Whilst the instrumental opener does kick into a heavier gear, it is nowhere near as brutal as “Dark Intentions”. However, the aptly titled “Brute Force” is every bit as pummelling and relentless as the name suggests. This track is The Haunted at their ferocious best – furious riffs, blistering leads, blinding speed and Marco Aro’s ripping vocals. The opening pair of songs are as effective as those that open 2000’s Made Me Do It album.
Whilst The Haunted have been known for savagery such as “Brute Force” plenty of times in the past, the infectious groove of “Spark” cannot be denied. It is the band’s rediscovery of groove coupled with knowing the right amount to use that seals the deal on this cut. This is an example of The Haunted moving outside the box and doing it well. Throughout the remainder of the album, there’s plenty of typically The Haunted type stuff. Pure, blinding speed, thrashing riffs, Aro’s raspy vocals, pummelling drums, solid rhythms and some outstanding lead breaks. In fact, it’s quite easy to pick out bits and pieces of the ten songs that make up the standard release of Strength in Numbers and associate them with tracks from some of the band’s earlier material. Sometimes it might be a style, or a rhythmic pattern or even a riff, but the pointers are all there. There are no direct clones or rehashing though.
Strength in Numbers is one of the strongest albums from The Haunted in quite some time. Their previous effort was clearly a strong statement of intent as the band re-invented themselves somewhat again after a period of disarray. Keeping that in mind, Strength in Numbers is clearly the band’s strongest effort in over a dozen years.