The Haunted – Versus (Century Media Records)

Friday, 15th March 2013
Rating: 7.5/10

These post-Marco Aro, Dolving reunion albums from The Haunted are a tricky bunch. Not thrash, not metalcore, not Swedish death metal, these albums are either sink or swim it seems, and when the songs are there (see 2006’s quite good The Dead Eye), things are suave and edgy, but when they aren’t (2004’s mediocre rEVOLVEr), The Haunted come across as just yer regular post-thrash band trying everything not to be thrash, teetering closely to the metal of the core.

In the case of Versus, The Haunted have frontloaded things, with a searing set of razor-sharp, mid-paced numbers that have that decisive edge needed to keep things in balance. Opener “Moronic Colossus” is a spirited number, with Dolving spewing some rapid-fire vox in the verse, while “Pieces” is not far removed from the experimental strands of The Dead Eye.

The thrash moments, as in “Little Cage,” “Ceremony,” and “Crusher” are all slightly above-average fare. These tunes come nowhere close to matching the fury of the debut, self-titled album and this isn’t because this scribe finds that particular body of work to be one of the defining thrash moments of the last 15 years – these new thrash tunes don’t have the muster.

What does cut it is the sideways riffing of “Trenches,” which has one of the band’s best riffs ever and Dolving’s ever-formidable sing-scream tops it all off. The eerie “Skuld” is placed properly at the halfway point, perhaps furthering the band’s avant-garde stance; same for “Rivers Run,” a Dolving-led murky waters number that is highlighted by a driving riff segment from the guitar tandem of Anders Bjorler and Jensen.

Clearly, the much-publicized At the Gates reunion had little effect on The Haunted and that’s probably for the better, as Versus, while just nipping at the heels of The Dead Eye, is clearly the sign of a band still feeling things out and striving for something new with each release. Backwards they may never go, which is fine, so take or leave it – Versus is The Haunted 10 years older and gradually refined

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