BUT WE STILL WANNA HAVE PETER DOLVING’S BABYThe Haunted have always offered us, the discerning metal listener, the most reliable fallback we could have hoped for in a post-Slaughter of the Soul world. While some members of that recently reunited band have put their various talents to the fulfillment of crusty grindcore (Skitsystem) or eyeliner goth jams (Dani F.’s Tap-dancing Cadaveret), the Bjorler brothers and co. succeeded in a pedal to the floor, no bullshit approach to heavy metal. They created a group that could both distinguish itself from their previous legacy and still maintain a presence around the world. Twelve years and five albums later, The Haunted have shown beyond any doubt the consistency of their output, both in quality and release schedule.

Now, however, with Versus we, the discerning metal critic, are offered a quake and a fracture in the rock solid foundation that previously seemed unmovable. This autumn offering is unfortunately inconsistent, which is frustrating because it has a lot going for it.

“Moronic Colossus” is easily one of the best album starts I’ve heard all year, wasting no time in delivering a flaming hot, meaty riff to get the head bobbing and the foot tapping in agreement. A short sample chimes in before we are introduced to the real hero of Versus, Mr. Peter Dolving. This is perhaps the first time we’ve truly heard Dolving’s in-studio performance match the tenacity of his out-on-the-street attitude documented by his blogging, Blabberbrat abuse and one-off MetalSucks contribution. We can hear him shifting voices with an honest delivery and interesting variety not often seen in metal since the younger days of Phil Anselmo. He manages to not only sound like he’s leading the whole circus (a front man, in the most literal sense) but like he’s sweating up a storm and getting red in the face doing it. At times the mix seems to max him out as if intentionally trying to damage your stereo.

With Peter at the helm the first fifteen minutes of Versus are the standard but highly enjoyable Haunted brand of thrashy melodic death. “Little Cage” is the heaviest, “Trenches” the catchiest and “Pieces” is as classically Swedish as meatballs and gravy. The rest of the album is about as exciting and cheap as an Ikea footrest. With the exception of the brooding half-way marker “Skuld” and the solo-section of “Faultline” everything else just seems to lack refinement. “Crusher” and “Ceremony” both demonstrate a historically proven principle: some riffs only Pantera could have made cool. Played by anyone else, they feel flaccid – which also describes how I felt listening to them. The entire ride seems to decelerate from a high-speed chase to a just under the speed limit family vacation with the listener in the back seat whining “Are we there yet?” Then when we arrive at its conclusion, “Imperial Death March”, we’re presented with a song so boneheaded and amateur that you feel like throwing a fit and embarrassing your parents.

While Peter Dolving remains consistently bad-ass throughout, and “Moronic Colossus” is likely to end up holding the same weight as “99” and “D.O.A.” in the live show, its hard to forgive this discrepancy in their career, especially in a year that saw the rebirth of the most important Swedish metal band ever. The Haunted had everything to prove to wrestle the attention back onto them, but could only deliver an album whose ass end couldn’t support its promising start.


(2 ½ out of 5 horns)


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