The Haunted are one of those bands that peaked early and spent the intervening years trying to match past feats. It’s been almost 15 years six albums and since 2000’s Made Me Do It, but they have finally made an album that is easily on the same level, if not better than their magnum opus.
Exit Wounds (Century Media) sees the return of Marco Aro on vocals, and a return to a heavier, more traditionally ‘Swedish’ sound. Gone are swathes of clean vocals seen on 2011’s unloved Unseen, along with the more hardcore aspects that were a staple of former vocalist Peter Dolving’s tenure. In its place is a furious album of aggressive thrash and classic melodic death metal.
Whether it’s the return of Aro and Adrian Erlandsson on drums, or the arrival of new guitarist Ola Englund (Six Feet Under), the band sound reinvigorated. The album is filled with urgency and manages to be relentlessly heavy without compromising on those insanely catchy riffs. The classic In Flames and At The Gates influences are easy to make out, but there’s plenty of moments that bring to mind Lamb Of God at their most intense.
From the crushing ‘Cutting Teeth’ and the groove-laden ‘Time (Will Not Heal)’ to the catchy choruses of ‘Psychonaut’ and ‘Eye of The Storm’, there’s little let up in terms of aggression or quality. Aro’s guttural vocals are uncompromising, but it’s the array of Jeff Hannemen-inspired shredding and searing solos from guitarists Patrik Jensen and Englund that really make the album. Even at a lengthy 14 tracks, the band manage to keep focus and retain the listener’s interest; the galloping riffs and epic chorus of ‘Ghost In The Machine’ round off an album filled with quality moments.
After the relative hiccup of Unseen and arguably a case of diminishing returns for a while now, The Haunted have come back stronger than ever. Whether Exit Wounds is actually better than Made Me Do It doesn’t really matter. It’s easily the band’s best effort a decade, and if it wasn’t for an impending album from At The Gates, by far the best album from Sweden in 2014.