The Haunted

Unseen

Written by: AP on 06/06/2011 22:05:08

Whenever The Haunted announce a new album these days, I find myself nervously biting my nails in anticipation of the day that Peter Dolving and his gang of superstars truly go mad. "Versus" showed clear signs that the descent into madness has already begun, but managed nonetheless to offer a number of compelling and destructive songs airing both a sense of exploration and respect for the band's origins.

It is impossible not to wonder whether "Unseen", then, is the album that sees The Haunted finally lose the plot, or whether it is the mark of brilliance. With a foothold in the arguably revolutionary sound of "Versus", "Unseen" is not an album designed for first impressions. The album finds the musical schizophrenia reaching a fever pitch with the band unapologetically committing to a variety of stylistic shifts on a song by song basis, which requires serious acclimatization to fully appreciate. But once the initial shock wears off in the wake of a puzzling opening trio, "Never Better", "No Ghost" and "Catch 22", which reflect influences as diverse as Clutch, Corrosion of Conformity, and Strapping Young Lad in no particular order, the crushing heaviness that fans have come to love and expect from The Haunted makes a welcome return, albeit also in unusual attire, in "Disappear".

But those endeared by the unique sense of maniacal energy perfected on "rEVOLVEr" must wait in patience as Peter Dolving continues to explore his impressive clean range, and guitarists Anders Björler and Patrik Jensen lob out a quirky yet surprisingly effective main riff in the emotionally emboldened melodic rock anthem, "Motionless". A trained ear will also note that despite the overtly simplistic instrumentation, rhythm providers Per Möller Jensen and Jonas Björler never sway too far from their preferred odd timings, best heard beneath the angular riffing and strong vocal presence of title bearing power anthem, "Unseen". And the bizarre will not end as abruptly: "The Skull" does offer reprisal and nostalgia with rifts of past aggression, but not without boggling your mind with an almost Queen sounding intro and a psychedelic chorus, which finds a close companion in the spaced out 0:49-length "Ocean Park".

"The City" and "Them" finally rein in the heavy artillery, but for fans of the old it might be too late an entrant to constitute true refuge. A dense and challenging listen, "Unseen" finds The Haunted hyperactive and adventurous, but also artistically lost. The variety is appreciated to an extent, but the album suffers from a lack of foundation to tie the songs together, making it almost a given that each listener will choose their own few tracks to skip. Those hoping for a return to the band's heavier roots are likely to be thoroughly disappointed; if anything, "Unseen" sets itself up as a modern heavy rock album without the standardized radio aspirations. It is an edgy balancing act between melody and aggression (with a heavy emphasis on the former) that tries to offer something for everyone and ultimately overextends itself in the process.

But even so, it takes no genius to find the value in "Unseen". For The Haunted it might be a serious misfire vis à vis their old fanbase, but with songs that are at least individually solid almost in unison and a level of instrumental competency that can be earned only through decades of experience, it would be foolish to disregard the countless merits that "Unseen" also exhibits. Those looking for pre-"The Dead Eye" era Haunted are best off checking out former vocalist Marco Aro's band Face Down or Danish death/thrash outfit Pitchblack; those who revered in the progressive leaps made by The Haunted on every album are advised to enter with an open mind.

Download: Never Better, No Ghost, Disappear, Motionless, Unseen, The City
For the fans of: The Haunted (at their strangest), Crowbar, Doctor Midnight & The Mercy Cult
Listen: Myspace

Release date 22.03.2011
Century Media

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