Aug 092013

Here’s a collection of recommended things that caught my eyes and ears over the last 24 hours.


My introduction to Chicago’s Russian Circles came at a live show in Seattle a few years ago, and I was sold, fast. Their fifth album, Memorial, is due on October 29 via Sargent House. Long way off, but based on a track that premiered yesterday at Pitchfork it’s a date worth remembering.

For anyone who still thinks instrumental “post rock” doesn’t pack enough visceral kick to shake your skeleton from skull to tarsus, listen to “Deficit”. Man, it’s a heavy beast. It sets a doomy tone with a moving wall of guitar noise and a hypnotic drumbeat at the outset. The intensity builds from there, and beginning at the 3:00 mark it’s fuckin’ headbang city all the way forward (accompanied by a memorable chiming melody). Listen to “Deficit” below all these links. Continue reading »

Jun 262013

Sweden’s The Haunted have been quiet for a while, and I had my doubts about whether the band would ever return to form after losing three members last year, and after what I considered a downturn in the quality of their output even before then. As an enthusiastic fan of the band’s earlier albums, this was a depressing state of affairs. But recently The Haunted have been hinting at a revival, with a new line-up, and today the new line-up was announced. Damnation, it’s a strong return!

As described in a just-released video on YouTube, founding member Peter Jensen succeeded in convincing two former members of the band to come back — vocalist Marco Aro (The Resistance, Face Down), who was with the band for The Haunted Made Me Do It, Live Rounds In Tokyo, and One Kill Wonder, and drummer extraordinaire Adrian Erlandsson (At the Gates, Paradise Lost), who was one of the band’s original members at the time of their self-titled debut in 1998.

But that’s not all. Guitar wizard Ola Englund (Feared, Six Feet Under) has also joined the line-up, and that’s another very strong addition.

There will undoubtedly be fans who will pine for the departed frontman Peter Dolving, but I for one am pretty damned excited about this revamped line-up. And not only because of the names now involved in the project: the video includes snippets of music from the new line-up’s rehearsal, and it sounds kickass. Watch it and listen after the jump. Continue reading »

May 022013

(Here’s another in Andy Synn’s irregular series of things that come in five’s.)

That’s right, with this edition of the column I’m going to try and convince you that your opinions are wrong, and break the Pavlovian conditioning that has led you all to unfairly loathe some genuinely fine albums.

But… this is the internet… so none of that’s probably going to happen.

A little context first off though. A couple of days back I was listening to the new Cryptopsy album (still stunning btw) and suddenly thought to myself, “You know what, I haven’t listened to The Unspoken King in forever… surely it’s not as bad as I remember?”.

And you know what… it is. Ok, so it has a couple of solid songs, and a few that would be pretty good if they weren’t Cryptopsy songs, but overall… wow… it really is bad.

But it did get me thinking about albums towards which the general public consensus is largely negative (often influenced strongly by prevailing media portrayals, and sometimes out and out misrepresentations) but which I think deserve a renaissance, now that the initial furore has died down.

So here I present five of my picks for albums which have been castigated and criticised by the metal community at large, sometimes seemingly without even listening to the actual music, but which I think are actually pretty brilliant, once you get past all the politics and preconceptions. In fact, having spoken to several people about some of these albums, it seems a lot of folks “remember” the albums as being bad, but can’t tell you much about when, or even if, they’ve actually listened to them. So here I intend to rectify that. Continue reading »

Feb 292012

“As an early fan of Sweden’s The Haunted, I was deeply disappointed by their seventh studio album, Unseen, released last year. Andy Synn loved the album, though he admitted in his review that it was a true “grower” and not without its flaws. I’m afraid it didn’t grow on me. Though it had its moments, it seemed instead like another milepost in the decline of a once invigorating band.”

That’s how I began a post on February 3 called “Remembering When The Haunted Were Worth A Shit”, which was about a curious turn of events in which The Haunted released a previously unreleased video for the song “99″ from their 2004 album, rEVOLVEr, which happens to be the last album from the band I really enjoyed. I wondered why was it being released then, eight years after it was made. I wondered if the band felt the need to remind fans of an earlier time when their music meant more to metalheads than it seems to mean today. But there are now bigger mysteries surrounding this band.

About four hours ago, The Haunted’s front man Peter Dolving left this message on his Facebook page:

“I am officially quitting The Haunted. After years of working with the band, I am out. I have had it. I will NOT answer questions to why. It’s no one elses business. Thank you very much. I am looking forward to seeing you people at other shows with other projects.”

Doesn’t sound like it was one of those “amicable partings”, does it? Continue reading »

Feb 032012

As an early fan of Sweden’s The Haunted, I was deeply disappointed by their seventh studio album, Unseen, released last year. Andy Synn loved the album, though he admitted in his review that it was a true “grower” and not without its flaws. I’m afraid it didn’t grow on me. Though it had its moments, it seemed instead like another milepost in the decline of a once invigorating band.

In a curious turn of events, yesterday The Haunted released a previously unreleased video for the song “99” from their 2004 album, rEVOLVEr, which happens to be the last album from the band I really enjoyed. It’s a montage of live performance clips shot during the summer of 2004 at Stengade in Copenhagen and at the Swedish Rock Festival.

Why was it released only now? Could it be that the band felt the need to remind fans of an earlier time when their music meant more to metalheads than it seems to mean today?  Or maybe that’s just my own prejudice coming through. I do know that it sure as fuck reminded me of why I used to await their albums with eagerness. The song is a headbanger, and the video rocks hard. Be reminded after the jump.

And if you think I’m full of shit either (a) because I liked anything by The Haunted that post-dates Made Me Do It, or (b) because Unseen turned me sour, feel free to leave a comment. Just don’t use the word “shit”, because we frown on bad language here. Continue reading »

Nov 072011

(Andy Synn ventures outside his usual meat and potatoes with this one. I’m not objective, of course, but this post includes many observations that ring true to me, and maybe will to you as well. Also, this post includes a heavy cargo of highly-worth-watching videos.)

I’ve been looking at doing some shorter pieces on various topics for a while now, spreading myself a little more widely and letting the material do most of the talking for me, and Islander’s sabbatical seems like the perfect opportunity to do so.

So I wanted to bring your attention to a couple of music videos which you may have overlooked, and highlight why I like them and what I think makes them a good example of the video “art-form”. Equally, however, the success (relative or otherwise) of these videos highlights some of the regrettably common failures of most metal videos!

Now bear in mind that most metal videos are a missed opportunity. I’m a fan of a good solid performance video, this is true, be it live footage (purpose-shot or amalgamated) or the traditional warehouse/barren-field performance, as long as it gives you a sense of the intensity and power of a band really getting into their music and their instruments. However, this is where most of them fall down, simply giving us a general shot of “hey look, this is what we look like when we’re playing” rather than any sort of “feel” for the intensity of the experience. And I’m not saying this is easy, far from it.

I do, however, want to highlight the issue that for so many bands (and most recently I’m looking at the plethora of metalcore/deathcore/djent bands) videos become merely a case of being SEEN without actually SAYING anything with the opportunity they’ve been given. Just because you’re moving/jumping/posing does not mean you’re coming across as doing anything more than singing into a hair-brush in front of the mirror.  (more after the jump . . .) Continue reading »

Mar 232011

Our UK contributor Andy Synn joins us for the second day in a row, this time with his review of “Unseen” — the latest album by The Haunted, which was released to the masses in NorthAm yesterday.

I’ve sat with this album for quite a while now. My initial response to an early stream of the album was cautiously guarded, almost negative even, as I felt that although I enjoyed many of the songs, certain elements (particularly Peter Dolving‘s voice) seemed far more disjointed and separate from the tracks as a whole than ever before. All this quickly changed when I got my own copy of the album on cd and dedicated some real time to getting to know the album in depth. I loved it. Yet again I refrained from writing about it at the time, wanting to see if these initial feelings were themselves merely a response to my original disappointment or a symptom of my general worship of Dolving-era Haunted.

In the end I’ve found that the album is incredibly strong, although in many ways a true “grower” of a record, although not without its flaws. The early disparate comparisons (Tool, Korn, In Flames, Corrosion Of Conformity) prove themselves to be premature, as listening to the record  in full provides a much better picture of a singular and united piece of work that is consistently The Haunted, but works to naturally expand the remit of their sound. It reminds me in spirit, if not entirely in sound, of Vision Of Disorder‘s misconstrued masterpiece “From Bliss To Devastation”, wallowing in a similar mire of depravity and dysfunction that makes it just as heavy, but in a way totally different from their past work in general.

If you want me to give a simple summing up of the record, then I would say that it’s not quite as brilliant as The Dead Eye and stands perhaps on a par with (or perhaps just superior to) rEvolvEr, a record which has higher “highs” than this album, but also a greater incidence of filler. If nothing else, it’s a huge improvement on the inconsistent mess of often ill-judged experimentation that was Versus – I’d go so far as to pull out the old cliché about this record being the album Versus should have been, just as experimental but with more focus and overall better song-writing. (more after the jump . . .) Continue reading »

Feb 242011

We’ve got a couple of quick updates for you about bands we like (used to like?), one of which we’ve been writing about recently — The Haunted and Ulver. The cause for the updates? Both bands have recently made brand new songs available for streaming; in The Haunted’s case, it’s the third song to be released from their forthcoming album.

The verdict? Well, there’s good news and bad news.


Previously, we’ve featured the first two songs from The Haunted’s new album, due for release next month: “No Ghost” and, as recently as yesterday, “Disappear”. Today, the band put up the new album’s title track, “Unseen”, for streaming on their Facebook page.

The good news is that if you like Chevelle-style hard rock with metal riffs and clean singing, you will like the new song. It’s probably better than whatever is topping the hard rock charts these days, but honestly, I wouldn’t know because I don’t get near that kind of music any more.  The bad news? (more after the jump, including Ulver’s new track . . .) Continue reading »

Feb 222011

Sweden’s The Haunted have a new album — Unseen — scheduled for release by Century Media next month. In late January, we featured a new song called “No Ghost” from the album that the band performed live on Swedish TV, and then added to that videos of other songs from the band’s diverse history of music (here).

Last night The Haunted premiered yet another new song from Unseen on a BBC radio program, which allegedly will be streaming on the BBC site for the next six days (though we couldn’t find a live streaming link). But we’ve also got a YouTube clip of the song, as ripped from the radio show, for you to hear.

The album art for Unseen has also become available since our last post, which you can see above. It’s by a friend of the band named Frode, who also did the art for the band’s rEVOLVEr album (2004). We’re not sure what the butterfly-wings-plus-grasping-hand imagery means, but we like the color scheme, especially because it resembles our own.

As for the song, it doesn’t sound anything like “No Ghost” — but as we said in the earlier post, you never really know what you’re going to get from this band. This one is pretty straight-up hard rock. It’s got a heavy undercarriage with some nice lead guitar phrases and a compulsive rhythm section, but there’s nothing but clean singing.  Sigh.  Listen after the jump . . . Continue reading »

Jan 242011

We look forward to new albums by The Haunted because it’s always an adventure. To borrow Forrest Gump’s famous line, they’re kind of like a box of chocolates: You never know exactly what you’re gonna get. You might get thrash or melodeath or grind or metallic hardcore, or even something that closely approaches hard rock. It’s probably fair to say that all those ingredients have always been present to some extent in The Haunted’s music, but to greatly varying degrees, depending on the album or even the song within the album.

What you can generally count on, even if you can’t exactly depend on a precise style, is that the music will be super-charged with groove and power, packed with infectious riffs, and scalding in the caustic vocal delivery of Peter Dolving.

The band came together 15 years ago in Gothenburg, Sweden.  Two of the original members (brothers Jonas and Anders Björler) were alumni of the extremely influential Swedish melodeath band, At the Gates, and a third of the original members, guitarist Patrik Jensen, has also been active in Witchery for about as long as he’s been with The Haunted. Dolving was also in the band at the outset, but left after release of The Haunted’s first album, only to return again in 2004 on the band’s fourth record, rEVOLVEr. Those four are still together, with drummer Per Möller Jensen replacing ex-At the Gates drummer Adrian Erlandsson in 1999.

A new album by The Haunted (their seventh) is scheduled for release in March on Century Media. It was engineered and mixed by Tue Madsen, and it will be called Unseen. And now we have a taste of the surprises in store on Unseen, because on Saturday night the band played a song from the album at Swedish radio’s annual music awards. We’ve got the clip after the jump . . . along with a video retrospective on The Haunted’s music. Continue reading »