Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia
You can’t help but admire Swedish melodic death metal/post-thrash outfit The Haunted and their willingness to change with every new release in order to break free from falling into the trap of simply rehashing the same sound time and time again. Much in the same way the band have gradually evolved and shifted direction over the course of their three previous releases (Namely 2004’s ‘rEVOLVEr’, 2006’s ‘The Dead Eye’ and 2008’s ‘Versus’), the band’s seventh and latest full-length effort ‘Unseen’ sees The Haunted further exploring regions well and truly beyond their more recent post-thrash sound, to emerge with what is undoubtedly their most daring piece of work to date.
With its heavy riffing (Courtesy of guitarists Anders Björler and Patrik Jensen) and thundering rhythms from the bass and drums (From Jonas Björler and Per M. Jensen respectively), ‘Never Better’ appears to be a fairly standard opener for The Haunted, with the song primarily rooted in a heavy thrash sound. But just when you thought you had The Haunted figured out, the band throw in something completely unexpected, and shatter any illusions of predictability. In this case, it’s primarily down to vocalist Peter Dolving, whose use of clean vocals within the choruses single-handedly alters the whole vibe of the song. Rather than relying purely on aggression, the song’s strength instead lies within its huge melodies, with the thrash-like influences relegated to a supporting role.
As different as the opener is, it doesn’t compare to the stark change of direction the band heads in with ‘No Ghost’. Moving more towards the Southern doom/stoner direction (By way of Corrosion Of Conformity meets Clutch), and a vocal performance from Dolving that’s equally unexpected, ‘No Ghost’ is the very definition of different for The Haunted, and definitely the sort of track that will bitterly divide fans.
After a somewhat eclectic start to the album, the band find a balance between Dolving’s strong up-front melodies and the band’s more mid-paced groove based thrashers on songs such as ‘Catch 22’, ‘Disappear’ and ‘Motionless’, while ‘The Skull’, ‘Them’ and ‘The City’, despite lacking the bite and venom of some of The Haunted’s more aggressive efforts, they do still manage to pack a punch, and prove to be the heaviest offerings this album has to offer.
Elsewhere, the remainder of the songs on ‘Unseen’ has quite an air of experimentalism about them, with the title track ‘Unseen’ veering into the realm of what A Perfect Circle might sound like if they took on a more thrash/groove metal influence, while the short acoustic based ‘Ocean Park’ is primarily a Dolving effort, and is along a similar line to ‘Infernalis Mundi’ – one of the bonus studio cuts from the band’s live C.D./D.V.D. ‘Road Kill’ package from 2010.
Towards the tail end of the album, the band manage to surprise with a rather catchy effort in the rockier sounding ‘All Ends Well’, before finishing things up on a bit of a darker and moodier note with ‘Done’ – a track that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on ‘The Dead Eye’.
Unlike some of The Haunted’s previous albums, ‘Unseen’ is by far their most varied and experimental effort to date, and one that does take time to fully appreciate.
Fans of The Haunted’s earlier efforts aren’t likely to get much out of ‘Unseen’. But for fans who have enjoyed the band’s output since reuniting with Dolving, ‘Unseen’ is a bold statement from a band who refuse to limit themselves musically, and who would rather challenge listeners (And themselves) over doing the same thing time and time again.
For more information on The Haunted, check out - http://www.the-haunted.com/
© Justin Donnelly