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To lose one founding member may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness… Now, I am not normally in the habit of paraphrasing Oscar Wilde when writing music reviews but this is the most appropriate way to describe what has happened in the camp of the Swedish Metal legends The Haunted of late.

Having suffered the departure of their talismanic frontman Peter Dolving for the second time in their career, the band experienced the impossible – the parting of the Bjorler brothers, with lead guitarist Anders deciding to invest his energies in different musical projects.

That, together with the fact that At The Gates are currently working on a new album, should be enough to convince everyone that the end was imminent for the Gothenburg quintet but, luckily for us,  the remaining founding members had other ideas in mind.

Face Down frontman Marco Aro was immediately invited back into the band and ex-Six Feet Under guitar maestro Ola Englund was the one requested to fill Anders Bjorler’s [mighty] shoes. The end result? One of the most bombastic, direct, and high-velocity riff-driven Thrash Metal albums that the band has written since its inception.

I you are surprised by my choice of words… so am I! You see, up to this point, I always found all Aro-fronted albums to be enjoyable but somewhat predictable and mono-dimensional affairs and that’s nowhere near the case here.

Though investing in the same type of Slayer-referenced riffs that we have been used these last eighteen years, there is a lot of variety and imagination involved. Most importantly, rather than creating a couple of outstanding compositions and then surrounding them with below par material in the hope of some cross-fertilisation of the magic, “Exit Wounds” is filled with numerous moments of outstanding musicianship and good, friendly aggression.

“Cutting Teeth”, the band’s choice for a music video, kicks off in pure bombastic fashion, courtesy of skinsman Adrian Erlandsson and is superseded by the somewhat less dynamic but far more versatile “My Salvation”.

Fans of Slayer-referenced lead guitar melodies should check what newbie Ola Englund has prepared in “Psychonaut” while those of you who, like me, appreciate Testament’s compositional approach, will love the groove and vibe of the outstanding mid-tempo piece “Eye Of The Storm”.

Punk vibe and head banging riffs characterise the duet “Trend Killer” / “Time (Will Not Heal)” while the mid-tempo heavy-laden piece “All I Have” is another  highlight for this album. While “Temptation” features more solid riffs and bombastic drum beats, the flamboyant one minute piece “My Enemy” is an exercise in violence, leaving both “Kill the Light” and “This War” with the task of keeping a decent momentum going.

Making its presence felt almost instantaneously, “Infiltrator” is another composition blessed with an amazingly catchy guitar melody and together with the Punk-infused “Ghost In The Machine”, they provide a very appropriate ending to an album well done.

“Exit Wounds” has certainly grown on me over the two weeks I have been listening to it.

While Dolving’s departure has certainly deprived the band’s music of a very important dimension, in “Exit Wounds” the Swedes sound more hungry, aggressive and urgent than ever before.

If you are one of those people who decided to write The Haunted off after hearing of their latest line-up reshuffle then listen to this little gem and weep. Outstanding!

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