Feeding the starved
Marco Aro and Per Moller Jensen of The Haunted discuss their extensive tour, their contribution to the extreme metal revival, their touring plans, but remain cryptic about what the title of their latest album means.
After a few years, where it was seemingly lost in the wilderness, extreme metal seems to be back in a big way. Maybe the current world situation has people turning their energies and anger towards something new and productive, maybe it's the fact that everyone who bought "Iowa" suddenly realised they wanted something more, something that they couldn't find in their Papa Roach CDs anymore.
Whatever theory you want to believe and, yes, there are a lot more where these came from, believe one thing, extreme metal is back in 2003, for one reason only. It got great again. Last year saw the release of some huge, heavy albums and if the past two months have been anything to go by this year is going to be even better. Last month brought with it the release of The Haunted's third album, "One kill wonder", an album that is essential listening for everybody, not just metal-heads.
Formed in 1996 by ex-members of At The Gates, The Haunted have hit their stride with "One kill wonder". Not only does it show the band flexing their metal muscles, but it's also got more of a sense of melody, which gives the songs room to breathe and prevents them from becoming transparent and flat. With its perfectly shaped blend of pure aggression and proto, melodic trash, the band has recorded a landmark album, which has seen them lavished with praise and compared to such greats as Slayer.
Offstage, and before their Dublin show, Marco Aro, the band's very big and very intimidating vocalist, and Per Moller Jensen, their powerhouse drummer, are relaxed and surprisingly easy going. Both speak in thick, almost stereotypical Swedish accents and both, especially Marco, are a million miles away from the raging demons they will later become on stage, when they pulverise the sweat-drenched crowd, packed into Whelan's, into submission.
At present, The Haunted are at the very beginning of what is shaping up to be an extensive world tour, one which will see them on the road until June and possibly afterwards. They're even going to be playing South Africa, which they're very excited about, but probably not as much as the metal fans there. The last time a metal band played there was Napalm Death in 1994, so they're "pretty starved of international bands down there", the Marco says.
Ask him how the tour's been going so far and the shaven-headed front man responds with a nod and says that it's been going well. They've sold out a number of shows, including the LA2 in London, and he feels that they've taken a few steps upwards since they last toured. But still, getting ready to spend that much time on the road must be a job in itself. "How do we psych ourselves up for it?" Per says, repeating the question. "We don't. Just doing that whole album before a tour, that's really what gets you psyched, I think." "Just getting eager to go out and play the new songs," Marco adds, "cause you're tired of playing the old shit", he finishes with a laugh. After 200 shows, playing with the likes of Cannibal Corpse, Dimmu Borgir, Catastrophic and Lamb of God, that's hardly surprising.
The recording of "One kill wonder" went very differently to The Haunted's previous two albums, 1998's self-titled debut and 2000's "Made me do it". This time, the album was recorded in Gothenburg, Sweden, with veteran producer Fredrik Nordstrom (In Flames, Arch Enemy, At The Gates) at the helm. The band took a nine to five work schedule to the recording, this meant that after each day in the studio, they could go home and not have to think about the album until the next day when you can listen "with new fresh ears to what you did the previous day."
The rawer, dirtier sound on this album, as opposed to their previous outings, Marco says was a "conscious thought, because people always told us we sound a lot better live". This time around, they decided to try "to capture it". From the almighty crush of 'Godpuppet' to the super thrash of the title track, by way of the pummelling 'DOA', I think it's fair to say that they have.
There are a few samples floating around in the mix this time as well, the most obvious being the marching boots at the start of 'DOA'. When asked why that came about Marco laughs and says "I actually have no idea". Per explains that it came about because the song has a marching pace throughout, a steady thump, thump (which he illustrates by banging his fist onto the palm of this other hand). "It's about being dead on arrival", he says. "It's like a war song, it could be war in the neighbourhood or war in the battlefield". Basically if you're going into war, you are already dead. It seems a fitting song for our times.
Lyrically, they've decided to leave it up to the listener to decipher their own meanings because they "don't like to tell people what they should think. We know what the songs mean to us," the singer explains, "and let the people decide what they mean to them." The album title, however, is something they're more eager to talk about. According to Marco "it's more or less a continuing theme on the ironic statement thing that we did with the 'Made me do it'. It's towards the media and stuff. You know the sniper situation in Washington? The media was just all over that thing andů"
"It could be that or it could be, are we the one hit wonders?" Per continues, picking up his band-mate's train of thought. "You never know with this title means," he finishes cryptically. "The thing about the media is that they don't want people dead, but death sells and will he kill again, the one kill wonder?" Marco says.
"The reaction so far," Marco answers when asked how he feels the album has been met by fans and critics alike, "has been mixed between this is the most brutal album you've ever done, to this is the most melodic and the darkest album. That's very mixed, but very positive."
"People have all different favourites. People mention their favourite songs, it will always be different ones," Per continues. "Whereas usually with an album you kinda know which songs people are going to go for. You discover that after you mix the album. You usually have three or four songs that people are going to go for, but now everyone's got favourites." "It's an album for everyone," Marco concludes with a nod of his head and he couldn't be more right.