The Haunted

Exit Wounds

Written by: AP on 30/10/2014 20:11:54

Two years ago, Peter Dolving sent shockwaves resonating through the Swedish metal scene when he announced his departure from The Haunted, later explaining that he had ”fucking had it with dysfunctional bullshit”, citing the indifference, cynicism and greed of brothers Anders & Jonas Björler as his primary reasons. They were poisoning the spirit of the band, he claimed. Anders, who was handling lead guitar duties at the time, followed suite shortly thereafter accompanied by drummer Per Möller Jensen, leaving the future of The Haunted shrouded in uncertainty and most fans assuming there would be no more band. Then, in the summer of 2013 the silence broke, as bassist Jonas & rhythm guitarist Patrik Jensen announced the reinstatement of founding member Adrian Erlandsson on drums, and vocalist Marco Aro, whose growling already adorns the band’s “Made Me Do It” (2000) and “One Kill Wonder” (2003) records; and completed the rehashed line-up with guitarist Ola Englund of Six Feet Under fame.

Fans of The Haunted in their most irate, crushing incarnation must have rejoiced: Dolving had been steering the band in ever softer and more experimental directions culminating with 2011’s strangely appealing “Unseen”, while Aro’s ferocity on songs like “Bury Your Dead” and “D.O.A.” he could never truly match - not on the self-titled debut of 1998, nor even on the classic 2004 album “rEVOLVEr”. With the return of Aro thus, few could have been surprised to discover that on this aggressively titled new album “Exit Wounds”, The Haunted fix their gaze firmly on the past, effectively cancelling their evolution as a band and discharging instead a familiar barrage of simpler, darker, primal extremity that’ll have connoisseurs of The Haunted’s first three records, as well as the Jacob Bredahl-era of their Danish contemporaries Hatesphere, frothing with satisfaction. Gone are the touches of pop and prog - in their place sit the murderous intent and unabated ire from the roots of these death/thrash metal progenies.

One thing The Haunted have always excelled at, no matter who's been toting the microphone, is letting their music fall of the hinges. Even in its less punishing incarnations it has oozed of psychopathy, and here too, a mist of ill will descends upon the listener immediately with the foreboding "317" and persists throughout the album. The tone is not unlike Slayer in that sense: the melodies are continually unsettling, the tempo often paralysing. And, most crucically, the songs glow with white hot intensity - a revelation which the visceral "Cutting Teeth" takes absolutely no time to produce. Some people are likely to lament the animalistic, bared teeth simplicity of the onslaught which admittedly does not take many unexpected turns across the record's 45-minute length. But for me, this has always been the band's forte; to write brutal, uncompromising metal that affords neither mercy nor respite. Songs like "Psychonaut" and "Time (Will Not Heal)" may not be loaded with sprawling solos, but they pack a wealth of intriguing rhythms and, in the case of these two in particular, a pair of slick, melodious choruses.

The instrumental virtuosity is there - it's just not overt in most places (for a fix of At the Gates-y riff mastery, do check out the excellent "Infiltrator"). It takes immense skill to lay down the chug and staccato patterns used by Jensen & Englund, and the skilled percussion of Erlandsson is an ever present source of admiration, never retreating to a mere foundational role. The ferocious "Trend Killer" demonstrates the point like no other track here: like the fan-loved "99", its allure comes not from melody, but from the perfection with which it has been stitched together, with the two guitarists' indelible falling in and out of the song to clear space for a venomous Aro bellowing misanthropy atop a lone Björler bass line, making an instant and lasting impression. Aro's unifying roars of "Trend killer!" in between verses spitting in the face of pretense in the music industry are destined to inspire all sorts of mayhem in the live setting.

Granted, with the exception of that song none of the material comprising "Exit Wounds" truly stand to the test when compared with the tantalising strength of beloved singles like "Hate Song", "Bury Your Dead", "Dark Intentions" or "All Against All". The record holds a high standard front to back but truly shines only in moments, with songs like "My Salvation", "Temptation" and "Kill the Light" all passing by without much fanfare. Aro is an exemplary vocalist, but his growl finds its limits within savagery, and befitting though this may be for much of what The Haunted offer here, there is a distinct lack of the lunacy for which Dolving became so renowned during his times with the band. That total nutcase feeling is absent, as bloodthirsty as Aro sounds on the pummeling sub one-minute "My Enemy" and the somewhat longer "This War". But even so, "Exit Wounds" is a strong comeback, and one to frequent my listening when there is a demand for catalysing or channeling some serious anger.

Download: Cutting Teeth, Psychonaut, Trend Killer, Time (Will Not Heal), Infiltrator
For the fans of: At the Gates, Carnal Forge, The Crown, Hatesphere
Listen: Facebook

Release date 25.08.2014
Century Media

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