6) “One Kill Wonder”
As far as vocalists go, I love Aro and Dolving equally. And I think they both bring something unique to The Haunted, which makes the albums in their respective tenures feel, in places, like they were issued by different bands. But this is metal and I’m a writer, which means this shit always comes down to a list of some kind. Having said that, One Kill Wonder is my favorite The Haunted release. This is when Jensen and Anders really perfected the combination of the debut’s angular thrash and the riffs that would’ve comprised the post-Slaughter of The Soul At The Gates record. Not only is the songwriting impeccable, but musical and vocal execution is truly superb; the riffing on these songs is surgical, the rhythm section is at their all-time tightest and fullest, and Aro barks like he’s still got something to prove as far as moving out of Dolving’s shadow, as if he didn’t already knock that one out of the park on …Made Me Do It. “D.O.A.” and “Shadow World” and “Godpuppet” get a lot of love, and they’re all fantastic songs, but dammit, man, this title track? This title track is the most brutal shit The Haunted has yet to deliver. After an album filled with record highs, these dudes still manage to put the pedal to the floor and get out every last bit of filth and fury in the closer. The riffs in this song boast some of the album’s catchiest hooks, and if you’re a metal fan who can’t get on board with a track whose opening lyrics are “I stab you in the face just to let the world know how I feel,” there’s nothing some dude writing an article on the internet can say to change your mind.
…Made Me Do It is getting the shaft in this week’s Criminally Slept-On, but that’s a good thing; if I ignore it here, it means fans of the band have embraced it front-to-back and there’s not much left to point out. To this day, a big chunk of the band’s live set is pulled from Aro’s recording debut, with songs like “Under The Surface” and “Trespass” guaranteeing crowd momentum, and the combination of “Dark Intentions” and “Bury Your Dead,” man… I just don’t see how they could ever not play that shit live. The album’s so good, even its b-side is killer. “Eclipse” features signature Aro vocals over the most punk-flavored song the band laid down until Exit Wounds closer “Ghost In The Machine.” It’s a total sing-along track, and if you’re a fan of …Made Me Do It and you’ve yet to hear it, check it out… it’ll be like you get to enjoy part of this landmark release for the first time, all these years after the fact. “Eclipse” appeared on Japanese editions of the album, as a bonus studio cut on Live Rounds In Tokyo, and on the second disc of Earache’s “best of” compilation, Warning Shots. So there are plenty of ways to run it down.
This was The Haunted’s first time to veer into weird Dolving territory. Their first release saw the singer forced into something of a one-dimensional thrash bubble before his initial departure, and while he’s spoken in interviews of his stifled creativity, he still managed to shove in some pretty weird shit with “Forensick.” This album closer sees the band do an ace job of emulating some of Slayer’s creepiest numbers (I know I keep making the comparison, but it’s so glaringly obvious that I’d be remiss in not mentioning Slayer… and the musicians have pretty much said the same thing), while Dolving opts for an off-kilter spoken-word approach to a song that probably could’ve still been good if he’d decided to sing over it. The result is unsettling, and most definitely worth giving a second listen, especially for those of you who got past “Blood Rust,” heard that eerie melody and decided to skip back to “Hate Song” and keep the pit alive.
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE let us get a new album announcement from The Haunted for Christmas. Just the prospect of getting any more new music at all from this band excites me. There’s a pleasure that comes with having seen (and enjoyed) a band you love endure tough times and come through triumphant in the end. There’s a camaraderie in heavy music with which I’ve always had something of a strained relationship; yeah, we’re all in this stinky, distortion-crunched boat along with one another, and that inclines us to want to band together. But so much of the lyrical content and the impulses to play and listen to this kind of music are born of misanthropy, of a feeling of being on the outside of something, and of wanting to create in those around you the sense of division you feel within. But regardless of whether or not your bottle is half empty or half full, there’s a joy that comes with seeing people like you who’ve been rejected and beaten down fight their way back up and create something vital. With rising out of the ashes, The Haunted have shown all of us that there is such a thing as a genuine comeback story in the post-physical media age, and that it can be based on delivering new, important music, not in reissue nostalgia or a limited run of European festival shows to celebrate the 25th anniversary of an album on which only one current band member played. Their effort is to be applauded, and their music… oh, dude, their music is to be fucking enjoyed.