The Dead Eye
posted on 10/2006 By:
The Haunted have carried on thanks to the creative capital they earned in 2000 with their minor monument of melodic thrash, Made Me Do It, for quite some time. While it'll probably never be placed in the pantheon of metal classics by the ruling elite, the average red blooded metalhead admits that Made Me Do It was a hot little corker of an album. But, One Kill Wonder and rEVOLVEr? Well, not so much. One Kill played like an aggressive, but underwritten attempt to harden the band's reputation, and rEVOLVEr was an interesting but obvious cross-over attempt that ultimately reeked of commercial flop. Ironically enough, just as many of the diehards earned way back when by Made Me Do It are throwing their hands up in the air in disgust and bowing out, The Haunted are now putting out their best and most coherent album in 6 years. Go figure!
First off, while this album is a definite step forward in terms of quality from rEVOLVEr, the general aesthetic is pretty similar. Peter Dolving is running the show again, placing his vocal stamp all over the place and possibly alienating a majority of the band's fan base in the process. I've got a pretty high tolerance for cleanly sung vocals, especially over this type of bouncy melodic thrash. However, Dolving's twangy, southern tinged drawl does get under my skin, especially since these vocal passages are usually sung over boring, instrumental filler. Please, less of that, and more thrash, guys. For example, both “The Medusa” and “The Shifter” were potential barn burners that were weakened by slower, and frankly boring clean passages. Elsewhere, tracks like “The Reflection,” swing and miss in both the vocal and riff departments.
On the other hand, when the band is clicking, they sound just as good as they ever have. “The Medication” is an all out modern thrasher, rife with punchy riffing that's supported by an entirely improved production from rEVOLVEr and a hell of a bark by Dolving. “The Shifting” hops along at a trademark Bjorler Brothers gait, and “The Failure” sounds more in line with A Predator's Portrait era Soilwork than The Haunted's back catalog and is probably the best and most realized execution of the band's current vision. “The Stain” and “The Guilt Trip” close out the album in strong fashion, with the former sounding a bit like Rusted Angel era Darkane, and the latter possessing all the trappings of a typical lumbering finale.
I can respect what The Haunted are trying to do here. They found a sound they like, and they are trying to push it forward little by little. This album probably won't bring too many folks back into the fold, but it's a decent little slab of modern thrash that takes a few chances. It does fall on it's face a few times, but those willing to meet the band halfway will likely enjoy The Dead Eye.
posted on 10/2006 By:
It’s official. There’s now an early The Haunted and a late The Haunted with rEVOLEr being the demarcation line. If rEVOLVEr was the musical equivalent of driving perilously fast into Dead Man’s Curve, The Dead Eye blew right past the warning signs and flew full throttle off the cliff with nary a skid mark. To call all this a metal album is being very, very generous. Most of it floats by like a slightly more sinister version of American radio hard rock. There are soft, spoken word parts and there are melodic hard rock choruses but what there’s not is even a hint that this is the same band that crafted One Kill Wonder or Made Me Do It. This may not be as drastic a move as Metallica following ...And Justice For All with the black album, especially given the early warning signs on rEVOLEr, but damn if The Haunted didn’t use the worst elements of that album to make this entire record.
That means the occasional watered down pseudo thrash riff being dominated by melodic hard rock and slow, clean passages. Some of these serve no better purpose than to provide a platform for Dolving’s spoken word prose, which never fails to completely ruin the song and make you pine for the days of Marco Aro. The one and only time I’ve ever enjoyed a spoken word piece during a metal song is at the end of Slayer’s “Mandatory Suicide” and that was eighteen years ago. I’m sure they think this focus on spoken word and slower, melodic guitars have helped them craft a “creepy” dark hard rock record that is a little more metal and “dangerous” than their competition but really The Dead Eye puts them in an awkward position of being a bit too hard for the radio but not hard enough for the underground metal community.
I don’t want to give the impression this entire album is soft and flabby. There are a few throwback areas, notably on “The Medication”, “The Shifter” and the “The Stain” but, although these brief thrash based riffs sound like sweet nectar of the gods, it’s only because of the lackluster surroundings. If you spin any song on any of the first three records you’ll hear something that blows it away. Really it’s just an attempt to grab at anything that resembles their former self no matter how pale in comparison it is. And that’s the feeling that comes across the entire album, just trying to find anything that sounds remotely similar to their sound of yore.
To be sure, there are many examples of bands making successful transitions to different genres, notably early grind kings Carcass and punk/metal crossover acts like Corrosion Of Conformity and D.R.I., but there’s also a TON of bands that fail, alienating their core audience and losing years of hard won credibility. In The Haunted’s case I don’t see The Dead Eye being looked upon very favorably by long time fans, now or ever. I think this will be a permanent stain on their catalog that is either the beginning of the end or an embarrassing side step that gets swept under the carpet by a series of back to basic follow-ups. Following that thinking, let’s hope these are the darkest days in The Haunted’s career. Let’s pray that, stung with low sales and fan disappointment, they head back to their roots to deliver a monster metal beast on par with their early work the next go around. Or we can just hope Witchery doesn’t start to totally suck too.
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