The Haunted – The Dead Eye – Review

thehaunted200The Haunted

The Dead Eye (Century Media)
by Tim Den

Don’t listen to the haters: The Haunted have not abandoned their fans nor sold out on their fifth record, The Dead Eye. They, like many of their thrash forefathers, have merely reached a turning point in their creative career: With speed, aggression, and riffage perfected, what’s next? If you had Peter Dolving as a frontman, you’d reach a little further down into the vortex of psychotic brooding, too. The Dead Eye is a dark, ominous venture into depression, hatred, redemption, and everything else that Dolving has long turned into a gloriously misanthropic (yet somehow empowering) art form. So it’s not crammed full of Slayer-ish shreds and polka beats, so what? I’m willing to bet that, if listened to closely, the emotions contained within The Dead Eye are heavier than any distortion or high BPM.

From more traditional metal numbers like “The Prosecution” and “The Medication” to the slightly radio rock melodiousness of “The Reflection” and “The Fallout,” The Dead Eye retains a cohesive sense of being. By starting every song title with “the” and writing most of the music in diminished minor progressions (a trademark of guitarist Anders and bassist Jonas Björler), the record plays out seamlessly. At times, a bit too much so – certain riffs sound interchangeable – but it’s a tiny flaw in a mostly impeccable surface.

So why are fans complaining if The Dead Eye is so excellent? Well, there’s the matter of slower tempos, sonic experimentations, the emphasis on Dolving’s melodic vocals, and an overabundance of Southern rock-ish riffs. Tempo-wise, if you’re a speed addict and can’t handle mid-paced grooves and breakdowns, I suggest you try Krisiun and early Immortal instead. But really, I can’t see a Shadows Fall fan not digging the feel here. Mammoth crunch and driving momentum – even if it’s not breakneck – makes The Dead Eye pretty fucking tough. As for sonic experimentation, there are only a few tasteful touches here and there: Congas during the bridge of “The Flood,” drum manipulation/heavy piano bass keys at the end of “The Fallout,” weird delays at the end of “The Guilt Trip,” etc. Nothing way out there, nothing inappropriate, nothing sounding forced or out of place. If anything, they only enhance the dynamics for when the heavy part comes back in. These occasional flourishes create a wider spectrum of songwriting tools, methods, and possibilities for The Haunted, and the fact that the band seized the opportunity to branch out successfully only shows that they are indeed more than just a simple thrash band. Certain metal fans might want their heroes to remain one-dimensional forever, but did you really expect The Haunted’s ridiculously talented and visionary members to stay inside your little box?

The last two points of contention – Dolvin’s melodic singing filling most of the songs and the use of Southern rock-ish riffs – are harder for me to defend because, even though I think both are used to great effect here, if you don’t like melodic hooks and Black Label Society, I can’t convince you otherwise. Metal can still be heavy without being fast, songs can still be great if they experiment a little, but if your tastes simply do not include clean singing and bluesy riffs (albeit bluesy in a strangely classical way: The Björler brothers are former At The Gates songwriters, after all), you’re not gonna like The Dead Eye. But, of course, the likes of Pantera, Machine Head, Crowbar, and post-hardcore supergroup Handsome have all made such a formula work, so if you dig any of the aforementioned bands, you should at least give this a shot. Who knows? It just might change your mind. I mean, come on: Who can deny “The Failure”‘s main riff? Thick like molasses!

I’m not saying this album is without faults. There are a bit too many mellow bridges and “The Cynic” is pretty bland throughout (especially the by-the-numbers verses), but the positives outweigh the negatives by a ton. Even the secret song, a creepy piano ballad, is well-written and affecting. The Dead Eye is obviously a well-prepared, well-thought out, bold attempt at stretching the limitations of both the genre and The Haunted as a band. I dare say it’s far more memorable than both rEVOLVEr and One Kill Wonder because it keeps everything that’s good about The Haunted while coming up with a bunch of new approaches. Bravo.