The latest offering from The Haunted, Strength in Numbers, refreshes the band’s sound with a diverse range of modern and classic influences. Where previous releases have exhibited a danger of stagnation, Strength in Numbers is a well-paced album that should appeal to a broad range of tastes across the heavy and extreme spectrum.
The album opens with the intro track ‘Fill the Darkness with Black,’ a more melodic entry than one might expect from a Haunted album. The acoustic guitars lend a touch of an Opeth vibe before the leads kick in with dramatic and soulful hype for the album to come.
Marco Aro’s vocals enter with a brutal roar in ‘Brute Force,’ and we’re delivered much more extreme guitars and drums, with some nice, crunchy riffs courtesy of Ola Englund and Patrik Jensen. What begins as a traditional Death Metal track judiciously picks up some more Deathcore techniques deeper into the song, while the solos still ground it in a classic space.
‘Spark’ pulls back a little from the in your face intensity of ‘Brute Force,’ and is very easy to bang your head to. A lot more melodic elements are introduced in this track, though some interesting guitar tunings help the track to maintain its edge. Overall, it’s quiet reminiscent of Johann Liiva-era Arch Enemy, particularly in its uplifting and even inspirational sections.
‘Preachers of Death’ introduces a more American feel a la Lamb of God in the rhythms of both the music and the vocals. This flavour pops up a few times on the album, notably again in ‘Tighten the Noose.’ However, the latter track doesn’t execute it as well as ‘Preachers,’ and ends up feeling rather monotonous. ‘Preachers’ on the other hand has quite a haunting lead guitar tone (no pun intended), and the solos reintroduce a very Swedish feel.
‘Strength in Numbers’ is rightfully placed as the title track. Dark and intense, the American sensibility is overtaken in this track by European gloom. Despite the deep and ominous bass provided by Jonas Björler, the track maintains a fast pace once the vocals kick in. Moments of uneasy silence from the guitars are punctuated by Adrian Erlandsson’s drums, while melodic solos fill out the diversity of the track.
‘This is the End’ injects some groove to the album, coming across as a blend of Pantera and Meshuggah. The track is slow and dirge-like. Even when there are hints of the previous uplifting feel of ‘Spark,’ it maintains an air of struggle, if not desperation.
More traditional Death Metal stylings return with ‘The Fall,’ which seamlessly blends American and European approaches, while ‘Means to an End’ has a powerful focus on Aro’s vocals.
The album closes with ‘Monuments,’ a downbeat, ominous and bass-focused track. This slow and implacable beast builds with the intensity of mounting doom throughout, ending with absolutely grinding oppression. The listener is left with the undeniable evidence that the depressive, wintery style of traditional European Death Metal is alive and well, and very much able to adopt influences from its contemporary cousins in the American scene. Overall, The Haunted chart a course for what the future of classic Death Metal might look like over the next few years, and it’s very exciting indeed.