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Friday, October 10, 2008

CD Review: The Haunted - Versus

The Haunted - Versus
2008 Century Media
Ray Van Horn, Jr.



Seemingly having been on a quest to find the right fit sound-wise with ranges as wide as clouting death metal to grandiose Goth (and a multitude of variances between) over the course of six albums, The Haunted are back again with a pounding declaration of back-to-basics on their latest slab Versus.

When we last left The Haunted in 2006, original vocalist Peter Dolving had made his way back to camp for The Dead Eye, a critical hit that found Dolving expanding his vocal repertoire, which one might look upon as a tune-up for his rousing ruck-a-muck performance on Versus. Full of confidence on this stripped album, Dolving is more a part of the scheme this time around as opposed to his sometimes isolated portions throughout The Dead Eye.

A new attitude begets a beat-heavy smackdown and jagged yelps from Dolving, thus making Versus a rocksteady, gristly hunk of metallic joy. With only a few moments of respite from the determined push and shove motif behind Versus, the album largely boasts a booming kick that roars like a heavy metal .289 and with a steel shank compressing the accelerator. No doubt many cars will be pumping out the thrashy "Little Cage" and "Crusher" as well as the thumping mid-tempo cuts like "Pieces," "Faultline" and the funkalicious "Ceremony."

That's the catch to Versus, if there really is a catch. The Haunted reportedly went bare knuckles and kicked out these recordings live. To that extent, the instant flow and crushing pitch of Versus is a heady success, even as the band yields a few contemporary metalcore customs like gang choruses and maybe a breakdown or two. Nonetheless, The Haunted are focused strictly on creating memorable tunes on Versus, even if it means using traditional verse-chorus-verse structures on "Ceremony" or the wicked cool strumfest of the opening song "Moronic Colossus."

As former At the Gates brothers Anders and Jonas Bjorler and Patrik Jensen (who doubles in the likewise booming Witchery and Seance) whip frenzied chord structures, sophisticated solos and underlying textures to the overt throb of Versus, drummer Per Moller Jensen guides his wrecking crew with a steady candor throughout the album.

Though Versus is a distant nod away from 2000's The Haunted Made Me Do It and 2003's One Kill Wonder, The Haunted more than have it under Tue Madsen's continued guidance. Versus serves as a kicking vent session with scattered jewel layerings beneath its overt heavy crown. Recommended.

Rating: ****

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