Just as the original wave of thrash metal had all but died off in the mid 1990's, a group of established musicians having just drawn an end to their successful At The Gates project decided to try and buck the trend by forming a new thrash outfit; The Haunted. By the late 90's their first album had gone down a storm and their follow up album "... Made Me Do It" had all the old school fans coming out of the wood work for this musical revival.
The band delivered a more streamlined, stylised view of the genre. Their albums had no rough edges, the product was well produced and the marketing concept floorless. The fans lapped it up in their droves. The release "Live Rounds in Tokyo" the ultimate in live thrash metal recordings, maybe even pushing the great live albums of all time.
The world was the bands oyster but line-up changes over the years took a little wind out of their sales, however not too much. Marco Aro the perfect replacement on vocals. Live shows were intense, aggressively wonderful affairs and still are to this day. But something stopped the bands ultimate trajectory to super-stardom. Following on the likes of One Kill Wonder and Revolver, whilst both killer albums, did not seem to resonate with the fans as much and by this time the thrash metal market was again beginning to hot up and the competition stiffened.
Twenty years after their original formation seems a life time ago; but this also brings with it the bands ninth studio album, entitled Strength in Numbers. Can this album reinvigorate the soul of the thrash community like those early records did?
The opening track, the instrumental Fill the Darkness Black, is anything but a thrash number. Slower paced, gradually building a great heavy metal intro track in its own right but not what you would typically expect from the band.
Brute Force and then Spark, show the true intentions of this recording, the aggression levels rise to fever pitch, both of which show the influence guitarist Ola Englund brings to the song writing table. His death metal back ground rising through as the sound of the band seems to be heading in that direction and away from their more traditional roots. This comes across in Aro’s vocals too, more of a growl than ever before and his throat delivers a striking blow to the listener’s ears.
Preacher of Death is the first real stand out track on the album, the throbbing anthemic riffs resonate from the off building the momentum of the track through the masterful solo two minutes in and beyond.
Similarly the title track, Strength in Numbers also stands out, a more subtle start with quite guitars slowly building above Aro’s deep breathing. Screams cry out, guitar volumes raise and drums kick; almost Slayer-esc in stature. A true thrash number in the speed and pitch and Aro’s vocals a little less death metal growly than before. Overall hints of that classic “…Made Me Do It” sound we all know and love.
The album took quite a few listens to truly get into, this isn’t going to grab you by the balls from the off. But given time, the album opens up and grows to be quite unique in The Haunted back catalogue. Going far more in a death metal direction than ever before, but still keeping those thrash root and their own unique sound. “…Made Me Do It” this album is not, but a very good album in its own right it certainly is.