I’ve been a fan of THE HAUNTED (without knowing it) since I heard “Dark Intentions,” the legendary intro track from “…Made Me Do It” (2000), when it was used as a jingle on an internet radio station back in 2001. I had no idea at the time that it was a real track from a band until a friend brought the album to work and the band immediately found a new fan in me. By the time “Revolver” came out, I was ravenous for more, and they did not disappoint.
Fast forward to 2017 – the eagerly anticipated followup to the brilliant (and aptly titled) 2014 album, “Exit Wounds,” is almost upon us. “Strength in Numbers” continues where that album left off, while also drawing on the diverse styles of previous releases. All of these (perhaps disparate) elements are tied together with the interwoven thread of Ola Englund‘s [ex-SIX FEET UNDER, FEARED] input. I was unfamiliar with Englund until he joined the band, but anyone who doesn’t know his other work should definitely check out FEARED (and his YouTube channel). Guitarist Patrik Jensen has commented on the new album that, “You have to throw curveballs every once in a while.” This they have done, but still managed to keep true to the spirit of THE HAUNTED. Englund too has mentioned that he had the opportunity to do a lot more of the writing on this album, so for anyone who is familiar with his work, it’s quite fun to try to pick out where he has had input.
THE HAUNTED have a very special relationship with intro tracks. “Fill the Darkness with Black” kicks the album off beautifully, with an amazing – and perhaps surprising – acoustic guitar riff. This leads perfectly into the heavy part and the scene is set. “Brute Force” feels like it would fit in very well on “Exit Wounds,” but by no means is it a reject from those sessions. This song carries its own weight and plows on mercilessly. The sudden burst of right hand tapping, mid-riff, in the chorus took me by surprise but it all fits really well. The next track, “Spark,” feels for me like it’s going to to become a firm favorite from this album. The clean intro sets up the main riff perfectly. I feel this song has stylistic elements from 2006’s “The Dead Eye,” and there are also some audible elements that I could only describe as FEARED-esque (“Synder” era).
“Preachers of Death” is going to be doing battle with “Spark” for the title of my favorite track, however. “Preachers” thrashes in with a riff reminiscent of 99 (from 2004’s “Revolver”), and the chorus seems to have elements that would have fit in well on “The Dead Eye” (2006). The interlude jumps in out of nowhere and takes you on a brief journey, floating in the air before the solo comes in and takes it even higher. The solo on this one is monstrously epic! This is the longest track on the album, at almost 5 minutes, and goes nearly everywhere. It does come to a bit of a sudden stop at the end, just as the solo is getting going, which is a little odd (hopefully this is just an issue with the promo files and will be fixed on the album itself). Jonas Björler gets a mention here too, as during the clean part before the ending solo, he manages some bass-work worthy of IRON MAIDEN’s Steve Harris.
Next up is the title track, “Strength in Numbers.” Before the first verse, there’s a part that will be great for a round of “AY! AY! AY!” from the crowd in a live setting. There is also an awesome breakdown in the middle that will get the crowd going crazy! Tracks 6-9 all have a very “Revolver” type of vibe to them. “This is the End” feels almost like a sequel to “Abysmal” – still wish they’d play that one live! You may also notice a nod to “The Guilt Trip” (from “The Dead Eye,” 2006) at the 1:50 mark. “Means to an End” is a great headbanger. Jensen does some mean chord riffing under Englund’s higher rhythm parts on this one. Meanwhile, “Tighten the Noose” has a super fast riff that hearkens back to “…Made Me Do It.”
The final track, “Monuments,” has a very suspenseful intro which quickly changes into a driving riff that pushes you on through the song. There is a highly emotive solo, full of feeling, and a beautiful, clean interlude that comes in again that I find quite reminiscent of DREAM THEATER. Englund, is that you again? Incidentally, I realize I’ve spoken almost exclusively about the guitar parts but this is definitely a guitar-driven album. I should point out that Adrian Erlandsson’s drums are tight and powerful throughout, and Marco Aro’s vocals are absolutely on point.
Englund, on his Facebook page, had stated that, “If you like solos, you’re going to love this album” – he’s not wrong! So many bands choose their best track as the first single and then fail to live up to it when the album comes along. This, for me, is an example of how to lead with a fantastic track and then have the rest of the album STILL blow you away. It has also been said that Englund has written quite a lot of this album. As a fan of his material outside of THE HAUNTED, I can certainly see how that is true, but it still sounds like THE HAUNTED I’ve always loved in all of their various guises.
Where “Exit Wounds” is an immediately accessible entry into the new lineup, “Strength in Numbers” manages to take that sound and explore new territory whilst still keeping everything relevant. A worthy addition to HAUNTED‘s back catalogue, one that delivers on every track. Can’t wait to see them on the tour for this album!
Written by Marc Taylor
- Fill the Darkness with Black
- Brute Force
- Preachers of Death
- Strength in Numbers
- Tighten the Noose
- This is the End
- The Fall
- Means to an End
Patrik Jensen – rhythm guitar
Jonas Björler – bass
Adrian Erlandsson – drums
Marco Aro – vocals
Ola Englund – lead guitar
Century Media Records