Strength in Numbers
Unified rebellion with melody and lyrical substance
As the years fly by I start to hear more and more cohesive sounds out of the aggressive Swedish scene. Acts like Witchery, The Haunted, and Arch Enemy are so symbolic of the style and texture of this authoritative locality. These artists just continue to excel in their chosen genre, that "hardcore meets thrash meets melodic death meets showmanship" conglomerate of talent colliding with brute force. It can't be any clearer with new The Haunted album 'Strength in Numbers'.
Russ Russell (Lock Up, Napalm Death) provides the perfect production backdrop for this abrasive soundtrack. The Haunted revisit the faster sounds of "Made Me Do It" and "One Kill Wonder" while still firmly entrenched in groovy, grinding combat. Out of the gate is "Brute Force", a charging thrash anthem that summarizes mood and feeling while lyrically asking, "Should I kill myself or everyone else around me?" The breakdowns at 1:30 with the pummeling double-bass is a menacing suggestion, but elevated with melodic leads. "Spark" sees the band recreate some of the distorted and abstract sounds of "Revolver", a colder sound that asks the listener to "stand firm as the flames get closer to the skin." It has this slower, emotional chorus part with some softer chords. The leadwork at the 3:10 mark from Jensen and Englund are pure brilliance. "Preachers of Death" is pure Pantera worship, a mid-tempo wall of sound that has Aro singing with a little more clarity. Again, a softer sound encompasses the chorus parts adding a lot of depth to a rather one-dimensional riff collection. The second half of the album ends with the Slayer-like title track. It slowly builds up to a quicker pace that has Aro hitting some death growls over a thrashy rhythm section. It's odd timing structure adds a bit of diversity and breaks up the all-out assault. Clever.
The second half of the album is a slight downgrade, beginning with the somewhat monotonous "Tighten the Noose", a raw in-the-face burner that resembles the band's first record. "This is the End" is a creeping, heavily distorted cut that reminds me a bit of Pantera's "Drag the Waters". Aro's "bury me down below, where no one can hear me scream" bellow assures us there is no happy ending to this tale. "The Fall" is an average foot-stomper, quick-paced with an energetic rhythm and some soaring, melodic solos to break up the intensity. "Means to an End" is a sure-fire album highlight, steadfast in its "like a bullet to the face" stance. Aro sounds remarkably like Grave Digger's Chris Boltendahl at the beginning, so much so that I had to double-check just to make sure the odd cameo didn't happen. It's a riff salad, mid-paced and armored with deep growls and persuasive percussion. This could be my new go to song when I spill the milk. The album finished with this Mastodon sort of slower march, accented by the cymbals and slower vocal passage. The 2 min mark brings this instant calm--whispers, slower picking soaking in the atmosphere before the fretwork hits this tremendous ascending lead. The track, and album, finishes with slower chords and a "calm after the storm" sort of vibe.
With 'Strength in Numbers', The Haunted are the heaviest of the heavyweights, creating anthems of unified rebellion while smartly underlining it with melody and lyrical substance. It's the obligatory monument to Sweden's metal monarchy, a kingdom ruled with an iron fist while drawing power from the people.