I feel really conflicted about this latest album from THE HAUNTED. There was time when I considered them one of my favorite bands coming out of Sweden together with the likes of AMON AMARTH and OPETH, but this album has really changed that in a major way. In the weeks leading up to this release frontman Dolving has stated that he thinks most fans are going to hate this new album and that it is going to be a very experimental album for the band but that it is also ‘heavy as fuck’. Well, I agree with everything he said except for that last statement. There is a lot I can appreciate about this new album and a lot I really don’t like, so I’ll just focus on the good and the bad.
The good: I respect this band’s decision to forge ahead and shake things up a bit and for not falling into a pattern of repetition. Most of the songs on here feature some very doomy stoner-rock like sections and overall it relies more on groove and less on the all out Thrash that this band was known for. Tracks like “The Flood” and “The Stain” will appeal to fans of this band’s earlier works, with its Thrashy riffs and general level of energy. The album closer, “The Guilt Trip”, is a 10minute + epic that goes through a myriad of tempo and melody changes that shows that this band is unafraid of pushing the boundaries a bit – going from a heavy beginning to some very NINE INCH NAILS-like ambient/spoken-word sections near the end, all the while holding my attention. Another highlight is “The Drowning”, it’s relatively irritating stop-go main riff segueing effortlessly into some very Southern-Rock-ish sections with Dolving’s vocals strangely echoing those of Dax Riggs (ex-ACID BATH, DEADBOY & THE ELEPHANTMEN). Peter Dolving’s vocals continue to impress though, no matter whether it’s his screams or his more considerate crooning style, he really puts a lot of effort into his voice.
The bad: speaking as a hardcore fan of the earlier, more aggressive works of this band I have to say this album is a disappointment. It largely follows in the same path as “rEVOLVEr”, but where that album made up for some of its missteps with some furious aggression and speed, this one rarely steps outside the mid-tempo range, with 80% of the songs having far more in common with Stoner Rock and alternative music (god, do I hate that term…). The riff-pit of guitarist and key songwriter Patrik Jensen has now really run dry, with this album featuring very little in the way of catchy riffing and compelling songwriting. Slow, trudging songs like “The Fallout” and “The Medusa” really do nothing for me and the generally listless atmosphere that permeated the latest WITCHERY album is evident throughout most of these songs. Furthermore, solos have largely been jettisoned and the production is bone-dry, giving the drums a decidedly flat sound. The Björler brothers are also capable of much more, but in all honestly this can be excused because the songs don’t really allow them to let loose.
Overall: This album can basically be seen as a continuation of “rEVOLVEr”, but with way more emphasis on slow grooves and clean vocals. So in a way this is the band’s transition album. I just know that this “new” HAUNTED is worlds apart from the insanely aggressive unit that recorded the self-titled debut in ’98. Now all we have is a band seemingly content to operate in a restrained style, rarely ever challenging the listener with some form of incendiary songwriting. Repeated listens may prove otherwise, but for now I feel that this album really has no more than an EP’s worth of good material.
(Online November 15, 2006)