posted on 4/2011 By:
My verdict is in. And I just know that you've been holding your breath... Many thanks, dizzy dudes and dames.
This procrastination turned out to be a blessing in disguise, though. Here's a scenario for you: A journalist writes a review, trashes the album, publishes it, but continues listening, slowly finds himself/herself starting to like the album and feels that they were a bit quick to judge, and loses sleep wishing that they could change the course of history and take it back. Well, there just aren't enough lashes underneath a review nor comments in the forums to write your way out of that one. It's out there and it can't be erased. You can snatch it from the archives, but not from memory; you can't retract a biggie like that. That's why I sleep like a baby, and also consider this a review written in real-time; for the people, by the people, in defense of those who sometimes change their minds. It also forms a good enough excuse for me to be content with my laziness as of lately. So, after quality time spent, my judgment on Unseen now goes a little something like this....
First and foremost, no one, absolutely no one could still be in waiting for a Haunting of yore. Dolving and Co. have managed to drag and drug and take further down the spiral their name, leaving us with fewer traces of the late 90's five-year-plan that most of you seem to adore. The result? Not surprising. The one-two punch -- any kind of actual beat that you can swing your hair to -- has traded its youthful hell-fire reds for the darks and dims of the film noir created over the last several years. Unseen is introspection, not outward fist-swinging in the name of fashionable angst and popular retaliation. I haven't heard a true riot-style come from these gents since 2004. That was seven years ago. Everybody needs to wake the f*ck up, including myself. Funny thing is, for all of the bashery -- without regret -- that I laid on 2008's Versus (and frankly, the trauma that I was ready to give this one), there is an upside to them walking at the same pace every two years.... The Haunted are finally owning it.
None of that implies that Unseen is gentle. Album opener, "Never Better" (a title that I'm sure will be argued here openly) is in the upper wattage, jogging its way over the starting line with a snare drum's repetitive eighth-notes pounce-pounce-pouncing on the string section written for its own, somewhat tricky time signature. That being heard, it's not entirely true that The Haunted's only aim is to mar the surface; there's still a bit of the angular drawn into Unseen's streamlined and milktoast quality of life. But what this album opener does best is highlight Dolving's penchant for catchy vocal lines, syllabic placement, and how easily he can ride the strings; it's a true opening act in that it's a tone-setter for everything that follows. Yes, the Jensens and the Bjorlers are still his phantom limbs, playing to his strengths and struggles (which if you haven't been paying attention in the last several years, is this band's hard chemistry), and that's exactly what becomes more apparent and defined in '11: How comfortable they feel writing it, and in turn, how comfortable I feel listening to it. The call and response between the players and what is being played sounds to these ears like a conversation, which is all I ever ask for, be it this style of post-post-SwedeThrash, that style of fecal-matter-devouring Grindcore, or anywhere outside the Metal arena; Pop Americana, Classical music, Country, what have you. If you don't find 'pop' sensibilities to be completely revolting, then there's no denying the fluidity with which The Haunted can pen a tune.
Now, to tap into the remains of Unseen's DNA a bit. The aforementioned lead-off track is pressed hard up against the second, "No Ghost", in which during the seven minutes that it takes to get from the front of track one to the back of track two, they've handed over the album's polar opposites. Intentional? I'd like to think so, in a "Hey guess what? Fuck you." kind of way, and I tip my hat to it. "No Ghost" is cold gin, upper 90's Metal-gone-Rock revivalism that takes a turn when they trip over the halfway point, rekindling a relationship with Patrik's and Anders' friendly fire. The ten tracks that follow contain recognizable Haunted -- disfigured, but recognizable -- that walk a crooked walk over ground tread by some of our American Top 40 Hard Rock acts, i.e. I've read comparisons to such bands as Stone Sour, and that's not a stretch (let's be honest, The Haunted's sound does have stateside leanings). But like I stated earlier, this is streamlined, mid-paced, ironed out and wrinkle-free, but damn is it solid for what it is. It helps to not confuse simplistic with stupid, either; that's a common misconception. Anybody that's spent any amount of time with anything I've written knows that I'm a sucker for a good hook and I take the bait time and time again, unabashedly, and I'd like to think that I'm a good judge of that ear candy as well. This album is stacked with confections.
The Haunted have set themselves to cruise-control, with slight diversions. And where I used to think that this would be their downfall, it now shows some kind of an uprising. It makes sense, though... If you take your foot off of the gas for long enough, you'll notice that you're not so concerned with being a speed-demon as you are with just plain steering the ship. There's even that obligatory Dolving-tortured-soul-draped-across-the-hood-of-a-baby-grand moment ("Ocean City"); candid, quiet, dire, and anything but dumb. The title track's chorus, with its adhesive melody and vocal line may be formulaic, but it force fed my memory recall for days on end. If you can live on the fringe and not feel violated, you might feel what I feel: They're doing something right.
So, in a witty closing segment, I offer you this.... I often recall cinema when I take the chance to actually fall into an album, and Peter and the gang resemble characters from a popular movie of some years back.... Like ghosts in this institution, virtually unseen, sneaking around after the lights go down and when nobody's left in the building, entering the classrooms where they once held court, but now clean, working at an equation which few are able to answer with such ease. They mean well, and are getting stronger in their methods by which to pound it back to base. Good Will Haunting.
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