I’m sure most know the history of The Haunted and how they formed from the ashes of the legendary At The Gates. Despite my love for At The Gates, I never fully understood the stellar press and support The Haunted received and always felt they were one of the most overrated bands on the planet. Eventually they started to drift toward a more metalcore style and I lost the limited interest I had in them. Now they’re back with album seven Unseen and they’ve left their thrash days in the dust, probably for good. Instead, they deliver a strange, directionless mess of experimentation, emo angst, nu-metal and alt-rock. It’s clear they’re writing only for themselves and could care less what their fans expect or hope for at this point. While that’s admirable from an artistic perspective, when the results are this tedious and uninspiring, it’s both tragic and cringe-inducing. No matter how brave and creative they want to be, at the end of the day they should still be striving to write good music and they seem to have forgotten that here.
This is a schizophrentic album from the start. Lead track “Never Better” starts as a nu-metal dud before morphing into a more alt-rock style with a decently catchy chorus. However, the reek of nu-metal/core can’t be shaken off. The album highlight “No Ghost” sounds a lot like Clutch or Corrosion of Conformity (think “Albatross”) and as strange as it sounds coming from The Haunted, it’s actually a good song. After that the identity crisis or willful attempt to be challenging hits full stride and we get songs with Faith No More influences (“Catch 22”), straight-up angsty emo rock (“Dissapear,” “Unseen” and “All Ends Well”), songs that would fit better in the Foo Fighters catalogue (“Motionless”) and lastly, metalcore with a bit of modern thrash and groove (“The Skull,” “The City” and “Them”). While I have to give them credit for trying to stretch their sound, this ends up trying to go in every direction at once and ultimately just feels lost and scattered. It’s almost like they couldn’t decide what style to pursue so they tried them all. While some songs manage to have memorable bits or a catchy chorus, the overall impression is one of a stylistic train wreck.
In fairness, vocalist Peter Dolving deserves some recognition for fitting into the diverse styles The Haunted explores here. He shows he can be a versatile front man and I was impressed at times by the shades of his performance. Sadly, too much of his vocals still end up being typical metalcore screamo crap which I can’t stand. The guitar work of Patrik Jensen and Anders Bjorler is disappointingly mediocre on many tracks and only occasionally do they hit upon an inspired riff (“No Ghost” sounds great and the riffing in “The Skull” is OK).
Truth be told, I had a great deal of trouble giving this album the repeated spins required to be fair. After one listen all I wanted to do was treat it like I treated St Anger and throw it in trash. I did ultimately stick with it and sat through it over and over again to see if things clicked somehow. They didn’t. For people who like metalcore, nu-metal or emo, this may be quite an interesting release. However, Steel Druhm cares not for those styles so to my ears, this is pretty rotten. Although I was never fully enamored with The Haunted, I can now say they will be completely dropped from my musical consciousness forevermore.