THE HAUNTED were a band that changed how Thrash Metal was done in the 90s. Their debut album was a riff monster; a take no shit, eat your children kind of release. These Swedes’ latest release, “Unseen," rarely resembles what the band started out as though. Although I’m all for experimentation (they nailed it on “The Dead Eye”), this latest release leaves a bit of an odd taste in the mouth of the listener. It has some great moments, but THE HAUNTED I came to expect only make the briefest appearances here.
The album starts off nicely, “Never Better” has a great HAUNTED riff to kick it into gear partnered with a swift and banging snare drum. Even the sing-a-long chorus isn’t all that unusual considering the Gothic tones and melancholic vocal work that the band has utilized on the last few albums. After this initial tasty morsel though, “Unseen” loves to throw curve balls. The band bounces from danceable drum patterns, jazzy/Blues oriented vocal croons and melodies like on “No Ghost," to atmosphere driven Ambient music. This album is all over the place. One hears a bit of that old HAUNTED here and there with the occasional barking vocal bite or a solid head banging riff (check out “The City”), but it's just one aspect of an album of scattershot ideas and executions.
Despite the sheer bewilderment one feels upon the first spin (particularly if one is a fan of their earlier work), the album is pretty catchy and rather unique. It’s not a complete off the wall effort in many aspects; Dolving’s lyrical content and unique singing style (he lessons his barking roar to a minimum for his melancholic croon) is still fascinating and the simplistic/melodic composition of the songs are intriguing for a band once known for their riff heavy punches. The album in this sense is quite an adventurous leave from the status quo.
As a long time fan, it’s still somewhat hard to not be disappointed with the material on “Unseen." It lacks the intensity one expects from the band in many ways (both as aggression and in the atmosphere), as it would have been nice to get a few more tracks that display these missing elements on the album. It has sparks occasionally (even I was digging the blues style of “No Ghost”) and respect has to go to the experimentation here, but “Unseen” just never quite seems to find its stride. It’s a good album, but not one of THE HAUNTED’s best releases.
Songs to check out: “Never Better," “The City,” “No Ghost.”
(Online June 9, 2011)