At one point proverbial community leaders in the thrashy borough of the modern melodic death metal scene, The Haunted's stylistic shift over the past few years has been interesting to watch from a far. To some it seems like the onset of schizophrenia and dementia as the band continually spiral further out of control. To others it is an inspired reinvention that sees the band boldly moving forward. As polarizing as recent output from the band has been though, one has to wonder if some pact was signed when original frontman Peter Dolving rejoined the band.
The obvious influences of Dolving's work in his past outfit Mary Beats Jane continue to seep in. Meanwhile, the admittedly now commonplace razor-sharp thrashy melodic death the band previously brandished is packed away in storage like childhood mementos. What The Haunted now preach is a so-called 'powergroove' style, which more often than not amounts to a limp combination of thrash-laden aggression mixed with beefy melodic alternative metal.
At times empowering and at others wearisome, the glaring lack of a unified direction to this album makes for a mixed bag that tries a bit too hard for its own good. There are points where they seem like they are extending an olive branch to their long term fans by giving them a raucous headbanger, but it's not long before it's quickly pulled away by a flaccid attempt at mid 90's groove metal. For every majestic solo that wouldn't sound out of place on at At The Gates record, there's a lackluster idea expounded upon and turned into a lukewarm song.
Basically, with "Versus" there's a lot of give and take and this may be trying to even some of the bands most ardent supporters. With tribal lumbering, Kyuss-like dirges, straight ahead thrashers, spoken word speeches and more all present, there are as many cliches here as there are creative ideas. Unfortunately though every one of them seems to work against each other.
(3 / 5)