The Haunted widen their field of vision

Drummer of The Haunted, Per Möller Jensen, claims that « the ultimate sell-out album would be if they made me do it » in order to defend the band’s development against the endless accusations of a “commercial turnaround”. These are the types of accusations faced by any band that either slows their tempo, or reduces their aggressiveness, increases the melodic components in the music, or even when the singer tries to… sing more, as well as being inspired by music other than metal. The latest album by The Haunted, rightly entitled Unseen, combines a bit of all of those things at once. Therefore, it was obvious that before the album even reached the hands of eager fans, some of them got moody. This is not helped by the fact that so many of their fans who adored Made Me Do It or the brilliant Revolver are now asking for a returm to their trademark swedish thrash metal style.

However it is all in vain. Either way, The Haunted’s Per admits that the band are starting to get used to this type of reaction: « It’s just an other day at the office. » He also remained very lucid and just stating that « to please somebody, someone else is gonna be displeased ». Per is right to defend their latest album Unseen because not only is every different angle comes as a surprise, but also because the whole album is an artistic success. Whether it’s the Southern heaviness in “No Ghost”, the album’s insistent title track, “Motionless” and its amazing passage seemingly borrowed from Tool or the song “All Ends Well” with its impressive vocal work.

In fact, singer Peter Dolving is the star of this latest album as he has literally transformed into a vocal monster with multiples facets of his voice handled with a mastery that few knew about him. He is definitely a great singer. It could be said that even though being audacious can be risky, it can also bring out the best of anyone and this is exactly what The Haunted have succeeded in doing.

Here, Per tells us about this risk worth taking.

I think going into a new direction is a necessary evil for us, at least as a band, to survive and to be able to keep on doing this, and to satisfy our own curious nature as musicians. […] 2011 was the year when we could go on and make this record. We’ve finally got the balls and the tools and the skills and everything to really do it. »

Radio Metal: At the first listening, what is striking with this new album Unseen is the remarkable evolution the band took toward a much more melodic and subtle style. There really is a big gap between Unseen and your previous album. What happened in the band’s mind to suddenly make such a huge step forward?

Per Möller Jensen (drums) : I think that maybe you should look at it like a continuation of The Dead Eye, Versus was just like taking a little trip to other sites or something. That’s the way I see it. Maybe Versus was the record we needed to do to buy ourselves a little more time to be able do this. It has taken some years for us to be confident enough to really be glad of the record we’ve done.

You have released a live album and a dvd called Road Kill. Often, when a band releases a live album, it’s to materialize a landmark in the band’s career, a point after which the band goes into a new direction. Is that what people have to expect? A brand new the Haunted that made its first statement with Unseen?

I think going into a new direction is a necessary evil for us, at least as a band, to survive and to be able to keep on doing this, and to satisfy our own curious nature as musicians. I couldn’t see this band going on trying to imitate what we’ve done in the past. I just couldn’t see that happening. It wouldn’t have been true, it wouldn’t have been right for both us and the fans. The only thing you can do is to keep on, not just doing what we’ve done. It’s staying true to ourselves and always doing what our heart is telling us to at any point and time. 2011 was the year when we could go on and make this record. We’ve finally got the balls and the tools and the skills and everything to really do it.

Ok, so you will never come back to the pure thrash metal style?

You never know. Anything can happen. This band never released two albums in a row that sounds the same anyway so… No one can ever predict what’s gonna happen in the future. You really have to live out anything, it’s always gonna be an ingredient in the music. Thrash metal is still here for this new record, it’ll always be an ingredient in here. We might not make records with ten fast, thrash songs in the future, but it’s always gonna be an ingredient, whatever kind of styles there’ll be around them. Everything is just a continuation. I don’t really see it as closing a door to our past and do something new, like quitting a job and getting a new job or something like that. I see it as a natural progression, a natural continuation of what we’ve already done. Because we already have made thrash records, we already made our mark, made records that counted in thrash. Then a lot of other bands followed up and sort of played music along the same line, and now it’s appropriate for us to move ahead then and do some other things.

You just said that you finally were confident enough to release such an album. Does this mean that now, you’ve got the balls to reinvent your style at each new album?

Yeah, exactly. That’s what we have done since The Dead Eye, I think. It felt liberating to do that record. We did versions of the songs that was more like our old ones, without really breaking free of certain things from the past. Now this new record is like throwing away the last things that would prevent us from doing some things, you know. It was liberating to do this album, it felt like now we sort of paved the way for ourselves in the future. Now, pretty much the whole specter’s gonna be our playground.

The opening song “Never Better” is probably the song which is the most comparable to the classic thrashy style of your previous albums. Is this why it opens the album? To not destabilize your fans too much from the start?

No… First of all, the only reason this song is the first on the record is that we always try to pick a good opening song. Not that much stuff goes on. This song is, to me, like a long intro for the rest of the record. It’s more or less like we always do, it’s just built differently. It’s pretty much like you’ve been driving in a highway: the highway is all your career, and you’re driving the last five hundred miles on this highway. Here’s the beginning of the record. Then it takes you into this new world that we have created.

« At this point, everybody was secure, mature, confident enough and willing to do a record that’s bold and that people didn’t expect. I think that’s just what we had to do in that business. We’re supposed to be that band that doesn’t play it safe. »

Another remarkable thing in this album clearly is the vocals: first of all, Peter sings much more than he scream. There’s a lot of melodic singing going on, with a lot of harmonies and variety. We’ve rarely heard such a level of mastery with the melodic vocals in the Haunted before. What motivated you this time, in particular to unveil the full extend of his vocals?

First of all we talked about it and gave him free hands to go ahead and start writing without having to worry about all kind of pretense, rules or all that stuff. Metal usually prevents you from doing certain things, so we pretty much gave him free hands to go ahead and write. Then we’d look at it and start working. I think that as far as him singing, the vocalizes and harmonies etc., it has always been there, even before he joined the band in 98. Already back then he was a singer writing songs, so it’s not new, it’s not like he wanted for his vocals to wait for the last couples of year, it has always been there. At this point, everybody was secure, mature, confident enough and willing to do a record that’s bold and that people didn’t expect. I think that’s just what we had to do in that business. We’re supposed to be that band that doesn’t play it safe.

Do you think he didn’t feel 100% confident with his vocals by the past?

Oh yeah of course! At the time, it would have surprised him that now we uses them, and we probably wouldn’t have included all these harmonies and the same types of melody lines that we have now. A lot of ideas came out with vocals first this time, vocals and some chords underneath and some guidelines of what the guitarists could be doing. Then Anders [Björler] would take a look at them and write his guitar lines based on what the vocals were already doing. It’s the other way around the kind of writing of a lot of thrash metal bands, where you have the riffs first, then you put the drums and bass and then finally in the end you try to fit the vocals in there. A lot of our ideas, especially for this album, came the other way around. It’s a different way of working.

Are all the vocal harmonies found on the album going to be reproduced live with backing vocals from the other guys?

I think the plan as for right now is to play with a playtrack, and we’re gonna have a few backtracks on the new material. I’m really happy about this because I really enjoy playing to a playtrack. When I’m home I always practice along with a playtrack.

There is a lot of diversity in this album. The song “No Ghost” has a very southern vibe, the kind of thing we could hear from the latter Corrosion of Conformity or Down, “Motionless” has an incredible Tool-like moment, toward the end, when the singer sounds exactly like Maynard James Keenan. There are also some grungy moments, or more rock-oriented ones. Is diversity something you were looking forward to?

Yeah exactly, because at the end of the day, when we come home, privately, it’s that kind of music each member of this band listens to. It would be completely absurd to even suggest that we’d be only playing thrash metal. It wouldn’t make any sense whatsoever as far as musical, personal preferences go. It’s very obvious that this band has a lot of inspirations, way out of metal as well. So it’s very natural for us to try and go this way now, I mean we have played thrash metal for many years and we have made the important records in that style. We have more than this. We’re not gonna be rehearsing our past, and dwelling on this past. We’re a band for the present. We’re here now, and that’s why we made this record. We don’t wanna end up like a band that feels like a cover band of ourselves. But it doesn’t mean that thrashy elements won’t be there in the music, and will not keep on being there. We have played our role, we did important records and now we’re on to the next.

You needed to take a chance?

Yeah! We’re off to new challenges.

On the whole, this album showcases the kind of diversity in the style that progressive bands like Rush or King Crimson have always showcased. Have these bands been an influence for the Haunted?

Yeah, definitely, especially King Crimson. I think most of us love King Crimson, they’re obviously a very big inspiration source. Also the musical upbringing of the [Björler] twins’ had included some classical music and a good awareness of melody and melancholy, from like Celt music, Swedish Celt music and stuff. And it’s still here too, all that stuff is here, and I even hear some stuff like the Cure, stuff like that, I hear a mix of a lot of different styles. I would even dare to say that some of it has be fusioned to our metal. Some of the melodies that Peter came up with… you don’t hear that kind of melodies in metal. Sure they are a few band that would sound this way, maybe Tool or A Perfect Circle here and there. The band needed some kind of maturity for this kind of melodies to come out of us… It’s not the kind of melodies you can hear on an In Flames record, or in any other modern metal band. It’s not the same melodies. It comes from other inspirations.

Yeah, so this album is kind of the perfect balance between the ferocity of the metal and the melody of the other styles?

Yeah, I think so. It’s still as raw and unpolished and strong. It has the power that we always had. It sums up everything we’ve done, but presented in a new way. I think it’s logical for us as human beings, as musicians and as a band. I’m really happy with this new album.

The album is called Unseen, could it be partly said that what is to be found on this album is new from the band, yet unseen or unheard, as a matter of fact?

Yeah. That’s one thing that’s in playing songs inside of the band, but it has also a lot to do with the way the world is right now, with how we have learned to close our eyes to everything around us to get a reasonable life for ourselves, and how we are forced to turn our backs or close our eyes to so much shit that goes around around us in order to keep our own sanity. It’s also about, on a personal level, how much people are willing to close their eyes to things: people go on abusing themselves for a lifetime without changing. These little things have to be fixed and maybe the answer’s right in front of them but they choose not to see, you know? It can be about that as well. The song “Unseen” itself is more about broken homes and dysfunctional families and the cost of that.

People feel too comfortable to really look at the problems surrounding them?

Yeah I think… maybe not even too comfortable, but too stressed out themselves. They’re too busy, they have to pay the loans, the house, the car… They have all these wrong little problems. They obviously chills themselves, and it has something to do with modern society, the big cities, the eternal quest for the latest possession and all that stuff. They’re chasing things to make them happy and put themselves in great debts to possess all these things they want, but it doesn’t really do much for them other than just having. They make themselves save away for this stuff they bought. I think that people have enough shit already just trying to survive themselves, so…

« The only thing I have to say is Jesus fucking Christ, try to know something about music before talking, then you would know that something like that is just a ridiculously absurd accusation. Like, I wouldn’t make more money if I wasn’t playing fast and strong. It’s not that easy. To slow down would make more money? That’s ridiculous, it’s so absurd. »

This kind of polished album doesn’t seem to leave place to a lot spontaneity in terms of composition. Has it been meticulous when it comes to this?

As I said, a lot of it came with the vocals first, and that’s different of most of the stuff we’ve done in the past. A lot of the ideas came with the vocals first and sometimes with the riffs underneath, it was sort of the guideline for Anders. He wrote the guitar parts through that. And then we would meet up, I would drive to Gothenburg, up to Anders’, and we would set up there, program drums, and exchange ideas. We would do that a few times, we wouldn’t practice a lot. The few times we got together and played a little bit, it was more like swinging ideas back and forth. We emailed a lot, we mostly worked on computer. We’re creative like that. And then all songs have been totally done, everything was in place and ready to go like a month before the record started being recorded. A whole month we’ve been preparing everything, everybody had they’re own time to prepare so once we got in the studio, it went really quick. The music was on tape unbelievably quickly.

Had the work methods of the band changed with Unseen?

Yeah it has been a little different but I mean… it’s only been in some cases as far as sometimes vocals came in first, but I mean, other songs have been more like we’ve done in the past, like we had an idea for a whole song or maybe like a couple of guitar parts, something like that… The big difference is that we hadn’t been together in a room as much as earlier. We’ve been five people locked up in five rooms somewhere trying to be creative. It definitely proved to be the right method. It’s been much much better working like this, where you’re not there forced together in a room and forced to come up with something great now. It’s a totally different kind of pressure, having to be creative right here on the spot. It’s proved to be better for us to process an idea and then have people listening to it maybe for a few days and then reply with what they think, instead of having to pass judgment after having heard the idea five seconds ago… maybe it’s not the best time to give out your opinion. It definitely worked out great for us, everybody had more time to listen to the material and think about it before passing judgment on the stuff. It’s been really good.

I heard that the drums were recorded in a pool. Is that true?

Yeah that’s true!

How in hell did the band had the idea to even try to record the drums in a pool?

Actually it’s a part of Tue [Madsen] studio, the Antfarm studio. I guess that when he tried this out, he’d been thinking about it for a while. He tried this out a few records before we got there. He put a couch and a lot of stuff down into the pool to make it sound a little warmer, so it was a less swimming-hall type of acoustic. Then he told us; when I heard about it I called him up and he told me about a couple of records, and made me listen to some records he had done with bands in a pool and it sounded awesome. When we got there and started recording, it sounded really fucking good. It was a really good room for drums, very suitable. It’s nothing like you’d expect. You’re in a swimming-pool, you hear like high-pitched noises, ringing, terrible sounds, but it wasn’t the case at all. It was very warm, it’s a very cool place to drum.

We’ve recently seen a growing demand coming from fans who are begging to hear all the old thrash songs from the Haunted. I guess they’re up for a great surprise considering the musical turn of the band. What do you think of that?

There’s definitely gonna be some people there that’s not gonna be pleased. That’s the way it goes. To please somebody, someone else is gonna be displeased, and that’s the way the world is, it doesn’t even have to be about music. That’s the way of life. You make a decision, it’s gonna affect somebody, and somebody isn’t gonna be happy maybe while another guy’s gonna be happy about it. It’s the way of the world. Same thing outside music. It’s been quite a few years since we did a full out thrash album, so it actually bothers me that people would go on being so cussed, like “why you’re not doing thrash records”… They still turn up to the show, and they’re always asking why we don’t play more of the old songs, and it seems like they’re like disappointed with us. But they still show up every time, so I don’t know. Maybe they enjoy a little bit of the new stuff. I mean it’s really hard to know.

Ok but when an extreme band evolves toward a more melodic style, the band is systematically accused of selling out by their fans… Aren’t you afraid of that?

[he laughs] Yeah, we’re used to that, we heard that many times. It isn’t new. It’s just an other day at the office, you know. The only thing I have to say is Jesus fucking Christ, try to know something about music before talking, then you would know that something like that is just a ridiculously absurd accusation. Like, I wouldn’t make more money if I wasn’t playing fast and strong. It’s not that easy. To slow down would make more money? That’s ridiculous, it’s so absurd. To me, the ultimate sell-out album would be if they made me do it.

I don’t know if you’re aware of that, but Peter, your singer, recently insulted David Draiman from Disturbed. Do you share his opinion?

What did he said? I don’t even know Disturbed. I have no idea.

Ok, because you’re playing at the Hellfest, and this band is playing there too so we’re afraid that maybe your singer’ll try to get into a fight with David Draiman…

No, Peter isn’t a violent person, he’s not like that at all, I’m not familiar with what he said…

Actually, he said “I fuckin’ hate that piece of shit pro-war, ultra-right wing motherfucker. This man is a real human fucktard. I’d really like to piss in his asshole; in fact, I might fuck him too just to make my point.”

[he laughs] Yeah, that’s pretty insulting.

Is your singer always like that? With all the musicians?

Well, he has his moments I guess. I don’t know why, whatever… It must have been something… It sounds like something really politically motivated… To me it sounds like a political disagreement whatsoever. I have no idea since I don’t know Disturbed, I don’t know who the guy is or what he said so I don’t relate to it. It certainly sounds pretty… yeah, a bit abusive. I hope it’s not gonna get too personal!

Interview conducted on february, 2011, by phone.
Transcription : Chloé
The Haunted’s Website : www.the-haunted.com

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