A lot has happened in The Haunted camp since the release of their last album, 2003’s ONE KILL WONDER. Vocalist Marco Aro left the band leaving the door open for original vocalist Peter Dolving to return. The band split with Earache Records and signed a deal with Century Media Records who is set to release their latest attack, REVOLVER (actually written as rEVOLVEr). What is immediately apparent is the prophetic nature of the title. There is some serious experimentation going on here, as clean vocals pop up on a few tracks and there are even slower parts that have not been seen on a record by the band since “Forensick” on their self-titled debut in 1998. The vocalist change also applies to the title. Dolving certainly has more of a range than Aro did, but Aro’s vocals were perfectly suited for the intensity of The Haunted’s music. Not that Dolving isn’t the right man for the job, but let’s just say that Aro’s stint will not be forgotten easily by this reviewer. Aro’s death/thrash bellow was on ten at all times, while Dolving’s voice is more of a hardcore-ish roar that is capable of being melodic, as well. He even croons on one track! As for the music on REVOLVER, it is as lethal as ever. The guitars are executed with such melodic precision that the riffs just envelop you. The frenzied drumming of Per Moller Jensen, coupled with Jonas Bjorler’s thunderous bass, is a rhythm section whose force is unparalleled in metal. REVOLVER was recorded at Studio Fredman and was co-produced by the band with Fredrik Nordstrom and Patrik J. Sten (drummer of Passenger), so the sound is full and rich in all the right places. When taken as a whole on REVOLVER, The Haunted remain one of the most powerful, energetic, and commanding bands in metal today.
“No Compromise” comes blazing out of the gates as perhaps the most devastating opening track the band has done since “Hate Song.” The thrashy riffing and Dolving’s unrelenting vocals are just punishing. Anders Bjorler’s solo in “99″ smokes while Dolving’s vocal assault on the track show he is back with a vengeance. He sounds as if he is screaming like his life depends on it! The next track is a real experiment for The Haunted. “Abysmal” slows things down and Dolving breaks into a crooning clean vocal that drips with attitude. The way he sings, “Bury me in a shallow grave, so the dogs can dig me out/If I die tonight, well, that suits me fine,” show how heavy need not always be calculated by the amount of screams and roars. Once the clean vocals end, the track sounds almost Pantera-like and Dolving echoes of Phil Anselmo circa 1994. “Sabotage” is a short thrashy track and Per Moller Jensen’s drumming is just incredible. Along with “No Compromise,” this is one of the heaviest tracks on the CD. There is a hardcore-like breakdown that begins at 1:44 that just slays! “All Against All” explores the more melodic death side of The Haunted and certainly is reminiscent of the old At The Gates days. Patrick Jensen’s riffs are infectious as hell and this song could be a real crossover breakout for the band. “Burnt To A Shell” follows the lead of “Abysmal” with its use of a clean vocal and mid-tempo pacing. This song’s chorus is full of hooks and the quiet verses/loud chorus formula is played to maximum effect. The Haunted’s hardcore leanings have always been a big part of their music and Lou Koller of long-time NYC hardcore kings, Sick It All, drops in for some guest vocals on “Who Will Decide.” “Liquid Burns” features a seething vocal by Dolving and a frantic performance from Jonas Bjorler and Per Moller Jensen that show just why this band leads the pack of European thrash bands. The Haunted saved the biggest surprise for last as “My Shadow” is one of the most progressive songs they have ever done. Crawling along at an almost dirge-like pace for nearly seven minutes, Dolving’s croaked spoken word verses carry an ominous presence. At one point, he says “She said my obsessions would lead me to Hell/That the flesh is weak…lysergic propulsion, nymphomania, immunodeficiencies and stray dog values blasting through the normative…so tell me, do you spit or swallow?” If that isn’t poetry, I don’t know what is! The clean vocals in the chorus are absolutely amazing and really add a new angle to the music of The Haunted. Not to worry, though, as mixed just behind the clean vocals is an almost inaudible scream that shows The Haunted still mean business. “My Shadow” ends with a haunting solo and Dolving’s pained screams to close out nearly an hour of an all-new, refreshed version of The Haunted version 1.0.
Two versions of REVOLVER are available. The jewel case release contains eleven tracks, while a limited-edition digipack features a different cover and two bonus tracks. Of those two tracks, “Smut King” is the better song. The neck snapping intensity of this track is mind-boggling. Dolving’s screams of “Slip it in…slip, slip in” reverberate over and over while another hardcore breakdown occurs leading into a sinister spoken word section to close out the track.
REVOLVER has some massive expectations leading up to its release. The critics will be looking for anything to rip apart and the experimentation that the band has taken almost leaves them open for an attack like a lone gazelle in the Serengeti. Yes, this is a different band than left us with ONE KILL WONDER but a new (old) singer and a new label seems to have energized The Haunted and given them the tenacity to get behind this record and try out some new stuff. I’ll be damned if it didn’t work, too!
KILLER KUTS: “No Compromise,” “99,” “Abysmal,” “Sabotage,” “All Against All,” “Burnt To A Shell,” “Liquid Burns,” “My Shadow”
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