Exit Wounds (Century Media)
By Mike Delano
If there’s a band that’s well suited for a comeback or reinvention, it’s The Haunted. They’ve already done it several times over.
After the near-perfect melding of thrash, melodic death metal, and punk/hardcore intensity on their self-titled debut in 1998, vocalist Peter Dolving was out. Undeterred, the band bounced back in grand fashion with 2000’s The Haunted Made Me Do It, a more metal-focused effort that features some of the band’s all-time best riffs and songwriting. New vocalist Marcus Aro’s death metal roar was more than capable of delivering these strong new songs, but by the end of 2003’s solid but safe-sounding One Kill Wonder, it felt like a change was in order.
Re-enter Dolving, who helped the band deliver another stone cold classic with 2004’s rEVOLEr. With Dolving’s intense delivery and evocative lyrics in full swing, they continued to push boundaries with 2006’s moody and fascinating The Dead Eye. Things started to go awry again, though, with the confusing rock hybrid sound of the follow up album, Versus, and it reached a dreadful bottom on 2011’s Unseen. Following that, Dolving was out again, and this time he was followed by fellow founding member Anders Björler.
So now with Exit Wounds, it’s rebirth time again. Aro is back, alongside returning drummer Adrian Erlandsson and new guitarist Ola Englund. The album starts convincingly enough with the one-two gut punch of “Cutting Teeth” and “My Salvation,” but old fears start to kick in – namely that Aro’s delivery, while entirely competent and unfailingly brutal, is kind of a one-note attack, lacking the emotion and nuance of Dolving. Those worries are put to rest quickly, though, with “Psychonaut,” a track that showcases a much more interesting and raw vocal performance, and “Trend Killer,” an unexpectedly loose and upbeat song with the best lyrics this side of Carcass’ “Thrasher’s Abbatoir” (“your licks and riffs are all laced with shit”).
Elsewhere, “Time (Will Not Heal)” has a catchy Lamb of God-style riff that’s representative of the overall feel of Exit Wounds and its willingness to incorporate new sounds beyond the expected Slayer worship. At 14 tracks, the album is overlong (the Haunted-on-autopilot snoozer “Temptation” would be a good place to start trimming). But by the time the raging “This War” kicks in towards the end, it’s clear that this is the reinvigorated sound of a band that’s weathered its share of wars over the past two decades and has come out the other side still hungry for another battle.