One listen to "rEVOLVEr", the fourth album in six years from Sweden's prolific THE HAUNTED, and it's clear why they did the not-so-subtle capitalization in the middle of the title. The band is trying to stretch out their sound somewhat, by varying tempos and moods more than ever before, while also bringing back original singer Peter Dolving for a wider range of vocal styles. The results are a satisfying, heavy, and energetic thrash metal album, full of HAUNTED trademarks, notable for a couple of curveballs, and just short of being great because of the band's basic derivativeness.
Opener "No Compromise" is classic HAUNTED, meaning it sounds a lot like classic SLAYER: a slow, ominous intro explodes into ultra-fast, doom-laden riffs propelled over relentless speed drumming, with Dolving screaming his guts out. He's less Tom Araya and more, if anything, L.G. Petrov as a singer, but it's still always refreshing to hear someone who does more than just growl. There seems to be a larger ENTOMBED influence here overall, along with some more "rock and roll" vocal stylings that recall, of all bands, one of Sweden's best-known musical exports, THE HELLACOPTERS.
The seven-minute album closing epic, "My Shadow", is the biggest departure of all. Varying spoken-word sections with a melodic chorus, and nary a sign of speed rhythms throughout the whole tune, this is a different type of tune for THE HAUNTED indeed. Still heavy, though, and sinister in a "Spill The Blood" kind of way, if somewhat more experimental than that.
This is still THE HAUNTED, however. "Sabotage", "Nothing Right", and "Liquid Burns" all race along as if the band had Satan himself at their heels, blazing through one precision riff after another as Dolving howls and snarls in vicious fashion. THE HAUNTED may not be the world's most original band, but they are clearly one of Sweden's, if not Europe's, most proficient and single-mindedly aggressive thrash acts.
"rEVOLVEr" may showcase some progression in the band's sound — not to draw out the SLAYER analogy, but think of it as their "South Of Heaven" — yet they are still an unashamedly vicious act. Guitarist Anders Bjorler and bassist Jonas Bjorler still generate the same intensity that they did with AT THE GATES, and "rEVOLVEr" is a welcome new chapter in their growing thrash metal legacy.