The deeper Swedish groove/thrashers The Haunted get into their career – we’re at studio album number nine with Strength in Numbers – the more they seem to polarise opinion. You’d have thought the haters would have gotten bored by now and moved on somewhere else, but no – a new album from these guys stokes up the fires of outrage anew every time.
Which is strange, because you know absolutely what you’re going to get from an album by The Haunted, save their weird flirtation with post-grunge stylings a few years back with Unseen. If you know this style ain’t for you, why would you keep going back?
What you get, of course, is serviceable melodic death, well played, superbly produced (by Russ Russell at The Parlour Studio), possibly ultimately forgettable for the most part but undeniably engaging when the record is on the turntable. Opening track Brute Force is actually quite superb, an extravaganza of bellicose shouting and crunchy riffage that many will attempt in 2017 but few will succeed as well as The Haunted for this two minutes and forty eight seconds of glorious noise. Spark is even better, being a stadium-devouring piece of gigantic groove metal, punched into your ears by a superb performance from drummer Adrian Erlandsson and guitarists Patrik Jensen and Ola Englund. Englund is a great guitar player, and his interplay throughout with Jensen is incendiary.
These two tracks prove to be the high water mark, however, as the rest of the album sees the band treading water for most of the time. As ever with The Haunted, this means a fair amount of solid but unremarkable riffage and a lot of leather-lunged anger from vocalist Marco Aro, who once again proves that whilst he may be more than adequate technically, he’s never going to possess the unhinged spark of Peter Dolving.
Almost every song has a riff or a hook or some crystalline lead work from Englund that makes you stop what you are doing to listen more closely, but ultimately the material fails to hold the attention overall after that promising start I mentioned. This is solid, no doubt about it, but most people will need a little more than that to risk a purchase.