Given the recent line up changes in the camp of The Haunted, their latest full length release’s title “Exit Wounds” is quite fitting in some kind of symbolic way. Losing the volatile and enigmatic frontman Peter Dolving along with Anders Björler and drummer Per Möller Jensen, the boys have drafted in Adrian Erlandsson (drums, At The Gates and Paradise Lost) and Marco Aro (vocals, The Resistance, ex-Face Down), both of whom have been with the band before. Rounding off the new-look is newcomer Ola Englund (guitars/ex-Six Feet Under) who needs no introduction. With a new look and new line up, let’s see if the spiritual successors to At The Gates still have the same fire in them as they previously did.
“317” opens with a sample of a heartbeat and some dramatic sound effects which instantly explode into the familiar metal aggression the band are known for. Building the tension up with furious drums and cutting guitars, the intro track leads into the first real track “Cutting Teeth”. The song opens with a huge roar and the intensity kicks in right away. The twin guitar riffs with the relentless drumming and thick bass provides the perfect backdrop for the aggressive vocals and it just doesn’t let up. Even in the brief break period halfway through the song, it’s still in your face and when it kicks back in, the riffing doesn’t stop till the end of the track. “My Salvation” starts off slower with a haunting lead line over a steady build up which has a fantastic headbanging groove to it but the slower pace soon ends as the song progresses. With plenty of tasty riffs reminiscent of earlier work, the song kicks in to life. The lead guitar of Englund works well on the track and there are so many moments when ATG styled sounds shine through, which is never a bad thing!
“Psychonaut” brings back the intense start to the song. The chorus section has a great build up with the contrasting guitars and pounding rhythm section which eases just a little before the intensity kicks back in once more. The lead break is fantastic and in a live setting, it would most certainly kick things off even more than they would be already. “Eye of the Storm” is trickier with its riffing compared to previous tracks and it brings a huge groove with it. It’s a nice change from the intensity of the previous track. With more anger in the vocals and melody behind the guitars, it’s a fantastic track and it sets up well for “Trend Killer”. Opening with an assault of vocals, bass and drums, the stripped back almost hardcore feel grabs you by the throat and when the guitars kick in, it keeps hold and tightens its grip. The hardcore edge to the track loaded with plenty of double kick and attitude is another curveball and something you wouldn’t quite expect from the band, but it works great!
“Time (Will not heal)” brings back the more traditional Haunted sound with its intricate leads and crushing rhythms. The powerful groove keeps up through the song and the solo teases its way across them as the song progresses before it slowly fades out at the end. “All I Have” has a kinda strange but enjoyable stoner rock groove to it, like a beefed up BLS in its main riffs and the slower pace works well for it but it doesn’t really stand out much apart from some nice lead lines. It’s probably a track which will grow on you in time, unlike the follow up “Temptation” which kicks in right away. The beefed up melodic death metal meets thrash sound gets you right off the bat and the furious assault is beautiful. The aggression and raw edge combined with the precise musicianship works brilliantly and the haunting break round 2:30 into the track which builds to another fantastic lead section is one of the best bits on the album! “My Enemy” is the shortest track on the album and probably the fastest and most intense too. The minute long assault has it all, furious drums, wild soloing and buzzsaw guitars with pounding bass and hard hitting vocals. The intensity spills over into “Kill the Light”. The hard hitting start keeps up into the verses with its sharp riffing and in the chorus sections it builds up for some dramatic lead and vocal work which result in some big moments. The lead section is great and the ever reliable rhythm section carries it well and towards the end, the intensity kicks up another gear just to bring the track home.
“This War” brings back the intensity of “My Enemy”. It’s twice the length but not as powerful, though the breakdown section is fantastic and something to surely get a crowd moving but it’s not as strong as the rest of the album. “Infiltrator” is the second to last track and it sounds pretty much like a standard Haunted track, full of riffs, pounding rhythm and angry vocals. The chorus manages to balance groove with intensity and melody making for a great section and the main riff’s twisting and turning is wonderful. It brings the album back and the final track, “Ghost in the Machine” keeps up the traditional Haunted sound but with a slightly more Entombed vibe around it with the guitars in places. It’s got that big chorus feel to it and the breakdown allows the bass to really shine through underneath a melodic lead which continues to lead the song and the album out.
“Exit Wounds” does not disappoint. Its 44 minutes of no compromising Swedish metal and a sign of a band who have managed to reinvigorate themselves and create a wonderful album. Get it, and when they play some dates, go and experience it. The Haunted are back!