This is a first-listen review, though I had heard a live recording of No Ghost as well as the released samples of Disappear and Unseen before I got the album.
From what I have heard, the guns have been blazing concerning the latest release by Swedish thrash metal legends The Haunted, 2011’s Unseen. Is it a brave new mood from a band that was on their way to move into repetitive nonsense, or is it a move into commercial, melodic territory, slaughtering all the band had accomplished since their formation in 1996? I for one am pleasantly surprised, but then again I am one of the few who praise the 2006 conceptional album The Dead Eye as a masterblend of thrash, death and progressive metal, and not an embarassing blunder.
The album does indeed strike as incredibly melodic in comparison to past releases (especially the early ones – self-titled, The Haunted Made Me Do it and rEVOLVEr) I take this as the top veil that needn’t be the only one. The album does indeed have its In Flames-style melodic death metal tracks such as ”Disappear” and ”Unseen”, but these are extremely well-done for what they are, and for whoever really frowns upon them, they don’t stay long.
Tracks such as ”Catch22” and ”Motionless” succeed extremely well in mixing the classical, agressive Haunted sound with melodic themes and some nice hard rock grooves, and ”No Ghost” succeed even better when it comes to the groove. And when it comes to the pure agressiveness and hatred that made us all love The Haunted in the first place, just close your eyes and think of killing someone while enjoying the finale to the title track.
The seventh track ”The Skull” seems like an introduction to the second half of the album, beginning with acoustic guitar picking and almost The Beatles-ish echoed vocals, but moves into agressive states and should surprise just about anyone who thinks they know the metal scene by now, and the short ”Ocean Park” would make any fan think they put on the wrong CD.
After a bunch of less classic tracks, ”The City” kicks off with typical Haunted riffs and vocals, and ”Them” mixes perfectly between the old style and the newer progressive/semi-nu themes of The Dead Eye and Versus, a perfect anthem of disgust. ”All Ends Well” however, is probably the only song I don’t really care for on the first listen. It sounds off and it sounds like a prolonged introduction to something that never really comes. Sure, I didn’t like ”Unseen” for the first time either, for the exact same reasons, but I did grow to like it more and more on subsequent listens. I’m sure this track have all possibilities of growing on me as well.
The final track ”Done” works perfectly as a finisher. Moving from a calm acoustic guitar and vocals, it develops into classic thrash metal and contributes one of the darker and more desperately melancholic moments on the album, on pair with ”Skuld” from the Versus album, meaning it quite well could be a new favorite of mine…
When I heard of this new album venturing into new grounds, in late 2010, I was taken by surprise but glad. I hoped for a return to the progressive arena of The Dead Eye, maybe in a mixture of some sections of Versus such as the amazing ”Skuld”, but I never expected something like this. This album is – on first listen – an amazing mixture of thrash, melodic death, progressive metal and groove hard rock. It kicks some ass to the majority of the heavy metal scene of today – especially the Swedish one – and it continues the great, 15-year-old legacy of The Haunted.