Released: 2008, Century Media Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Many cynics wrote off veteran Swedish thrashers, The Haunted, after hearing rEVOLVEr, the first release after original vocalist Peter Dolving returned in 2004. Personally, it ranks as my favorite release from the band after their still-powerful 1998 debut. Sure, Dolving’s voice was ripe for experimentation whereas Marco Aro’s booming throat led the band in an almost death metal direction on 2003’s ONE KILL WONDER. Songs like “Abysmal” and “My Sweet Shadow” from rEVOLVEr were a far cry from early face-rippers like “Hate Song” and The Haunted’s last release, 2006’s THE DEAD EYE, was even more daring.
So many might expect the band’s new CD, VERSUS, to go in an even mellower and less thrashy direction.
They would be wrong.
While VERSUS certainly has a few cuts that will raise the ire of the dyed-in-the-wool headbangers, there are several songs here that are the fastest and heaviest the band has ever recorded. Nipped and tucked to just under forty minutes, VERSUS is over before you know it but it begs to be played over and over as the band has once again merged the highly influential thrash sound of the debut with its more melodic side—think rEVOLVEr Part II.
Coming out of the gates with the furious groove of “Moronic Colossus,” the song mirrors the intensity of past lead-off cuts like “No Compromise” and “The Flood” to a tee. At approximately the 1:20 mark, Dolving’s rapid-fire, staccato bark will draw many comparisons to that of Meshuggah’s Jens Kidman. Other songs like “Trenches” and “Iron Mask” follow a similar pattern but lean more towards melodic choruses and a mid-paced tempo. However, the band goes full-throttle on “Little Cage” and the explosive “Crusher,” the rhythm section of Jonas Björler and Per Möller Jensen absolutely pummeling the listener with chunky basslines and speedy beats. Close your eyes and you can almost see the smiling faces of the guitar team of Anders Björler and Patrick Jensen as they unleash on the opening of “Crusher,” too. “Ceremony,” with its throbbing bass and infectious riff, heads into the territory of tracks like “99,” “D.O.A.” and “The Medication,” instantly memorable songs that are sure bets to find their way into the band’s live set. The gang-style vocals on “Faultline,” while brief, pave the way for an increasingly fast and heavy song that finally reaches the thrash pinnacle the band is known for before changing tempos yet again. “Rivers Run” is slower-paced with a sinister vocal delivery from Dolving but it is “Skuld” that really delves into experimental terrain. Dolving’s spoken vocals are dark and brooding with a trippy chorus but the entire song is shrouded in an ambient cloak that immediately brings to mind rEVOLVEr’s “My Sweet Shadow” (following it up with “Crusher” is brilliant sequencing, too).
Because I find the many vocal styles of Peter Dolving appealing and his other three albums with The Haunted to be my favorites, many of you reading this who share those same sentiments will be chomping at the bit to get your hands on VERSUS. THE DEAD EYE was a bit too different but it became clear the band needed to do an album like that which would test the waters and the extent to which its fans would follow. Now that that is out of the way, though, VERSUS finds The Haunted getting back to its roots without forgetting what got them to this point. Calling VERSUS an extension of rEVOLVEr is not a stretch—nor am I claiming that band has stagnated—but this album is definitely similar in tone, tempo and pacing…all of which is a very good thing.
KILLER KUTS: “Moronic Colossus,” “Little Cage,” “Trenches,” “Ceremony,” “Skuld,” “Crusher,” “Faultline”