Few albums this year have been surrounded with as much buzz as The Dead Eye. Upon its release it was lauded for being so drastically different from its predecessors, and also heavily criticized for exactly the same thing. Being a big fan of The Haunted's back-catalogue I couldn't wait to sink my teeth into the new album. At first contact I didn't really know what to think, and it isn't until after I've lived with The Dead Eye for a whole month that I'm ready to deliver my judgement.
"In the darkest corner of my mind, I see a boy with a crooked smile."
I've constantly found myself impressed by The Haunted's ability to write aggressive yet catchy songs, but never felt that they justified their band name. It isn't until their fifth album, two and a half minutes into The Flood to be precise, that I'm truly frightened for the first time. After presenting a bunch of riffs and a chorus that might just be their most memorable yet, a disturbing yet fascinating interlude shows up. It is here that the mesmerizing vocalist Peter Dolving nails the theme of the album, which is about his personal journey to deal with his troubled youth.
The Flood is by no means alone when it comes to messing with the listener's mind. Almost all the tracks includes at least one interlude with eerie guitar lines and clean vocals from Dolving, and the general pace is considerably slower than before. The previous album Revolver (2004), or more precisely the songs Abysmal and My Shadow, hinted that a change of direction was to be expected. I was never really fond of Dolving's clean vocals back then, which is why it's such a shock that his singing now might be the most impressive aspect of the whole album.
One of the major complaints about The Dead Eye is that the songs are too introvert and hard to grasp, and while the new material certainly needs more attention than earlier, the reward is so much greater when all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place. Hearing the new songs live obviously helps to unlock some of the more "difficult" tracks, like The Fallout and The Medusa.
Some have claimed that The Dead Eye ventures entirely into new territories, but the truth is rather that the balance between old and new has been chiselled with perfection. Tracks like The Medication and The Prosecution have just as high hit-potential as the majority of the Revolver-album, and the twitchy thrash-riffs of The Stain and The Shifter can be traced back to One Kill Wonder (2002).
The most profound example of The Haunted's new style is the closer The Guilt Trip, which initially makes me think about sludge metal-bands like Neurosis or Isis. Then a crushing mid tempo-riff, which reminds slightly of Metallica's Eye Of The Beholder, rams into the picture and makes the track heavier and groovier than anything The Haunted's ever made before. When the song fades out after five minutes, don't turn of your stereo just yet. After a few minutes of silence a gloomy piano-ballad appears, that could have been written in the 80s by a band like The Cure. Is this how the next The Haunted-album will sound? If that is the case, I'm already there.
Bands that try to renew their formula instead of recycling the same album over and over again will always be accused of "selling out". The Dead Eye might have divided The Haunted's fan base in two, but it should also gain them several new supporters that haven't got along with the band before. This release establishes The Haunted as one of the most vital bands in metal today, and while it's hard to judge an album's durability after a mere month, I'm certain that The Dead Eye will stick around and haunt us for several years to come.