After the release of “One Kill Wonder” and the departure of Marco Aro in 2003, The Haunted have been slowly evolving their sound since the return of Peter Dolving. With the next three releases, “rEVOLVEr” (2004), “The Dead Eye” (2006), and “Versus” (2008), you can hear The Haunted slowly straying further and further away from their original aggressive thrash roots. With the release “Unseen“, this is the biggest step they’ve taken away from thrash into more of a groove metal influence. Be warned, if you are one of the fans who is a purist to The Haunted’s early material, and have been disappointed with the direction they have been heading, this album could likely put the final nail in the coffin. Not only is “Unseen” nearly destitute of any thrash elements, the most drastic change comes in the presentation of Peter Dolving’s vocals.
Dolving showcases another side of his performance abilities on “Unseen“, and in a big way that will either turn you away or leave you impressed. “Unseen” contains Dolving singing in clean vocals through most of the album, rather than his usual aggressive style. The opening track “Never Better” will remind you of material from the past couple albums, after which you’re going to head down a patch you were probably not expecting. It’s not until later into the album do you hear Dolving’s aggressive vocals, waiting till track #7 “The Skull” for just a tease. Tracks #9 “The City” and #10 “Them” then contains Dolving belting it out like we have become used to in past work. The rest is built around his clean vocals, but is this a terrible decision on his part? It really depends on how open you are to a band evolving their sound. I personally found Dolving’s clean vocals to be enjoyable, and was rather impressed at just how prominent he sounded. As with the lyrics, nothing really memorable comes across. At times they can be a little catchy, and at times it can be a bit silly, a good example being the first verse of “No Ghost“.
“You’ve got to move
As if you need to know why?
Chow Mein don’t make up for Christmas
But it will do
Got money in your pocket
Got places to go
Don’t no-one know your name
You’re on a roll”
Huh? Wait, what?
Along with Dolving using clean vocals through the majority of the record, as stated previously there is also a defining change in the instrumentals. Dolving himself said that “Unseen” would be “Epic. Danceable. Groovy. And very very arty farty metal”. If the album had to be summed up in just one sentence, Dolving hit the nail right on the head. With just a hint of Thrash that can be heard on a few tracks, and some Melodic Death Metal on most, a powerful form of Groove Metal is the driving force behind “Unseen“. Songs like “No Ghost” and the title track “Unseen” being the best examples. Taking into consideration the Björler brothers also recorded the album, it was a shocking listen at first, but they pulled off the transition rather well. This may not exactly be The Haunted we’ve known, but I find this to be a commendable album. It’s not often that a band can change their sound so drastically and manage to pull it off in such a great way.
Even if you have been displeased with the path The Haunted have been heading down the past several years, I still suggest to give this album a chance. For me, “One Kill Wonder” has always been my favorite Haunted album, and I have also had somewhat of a lackluster interest in the past couple releases. As much as I would love The Haunted to return to their original thrash / death metal sound, I wouldn’t mind another album similar to “Unseen“.