Latest release: Exit Wounds (Century Media)
Like many other bands, The Haunted has suffered from a revolving door of members over their almost 20 year career. Unlike others, however, the sum total of those who’ve passed through the Swedish melo-death-groove merchants has been eight – nine if John Zwetsloot’s one month tenure back when the group first formed is considered. For even though The Haunted has just withstood its third major line-up change, only one of the ‘new’ members hasn’t been in the band before. Guitarist Ola Englund joined up in 2013 at the same time two former members, founding drummer Adrian Erlandsson and vocalist Marco Aro, came back to the fold.
“I wasn’t really sure about how people would react to this new Haunted – which isn’t really a new The Haunted because it’s basically I’m the only guy who’s new!” Englund says as the band gears up for a visit to Australia. “Adrian the drummer is back and Marco has been a big part of what made The Haunted what it is today. So I wasn’t really worried, but I wasn’t sure how people would react to us going back to our old sound. It’s hard to know.”
In the wake of 2011’s uneven and strange Unseen, the reaction to last year’s Exit Wounds has been resoundingly positive for The Haunted. It was a much-needed reversal of their fortunes after the departure of enigmatic vocalist Peter Dolving in early 2012 and then of lead guitarist Anders Björler and drummer Per Möller Jensen the following October. Following a hiatus during which it looked like The Haunted would be no more, the band reconvened with Englund, Aro and Erlandsson coming in alongside Jonas Björler and Patrik Jensen.
“They knew I had the touring experience,” he says. “I was with Six Feet Under at the time, so I was touring with those guys, but if it wasn’t for my videos Jensen wouldn’t have found me. It’s kinda weird how that went down. It’s probably how both Six Feet Under and The Haunted found me. They saw my videos and liked my riffs.”
It was also made very clear that he wasn’t hired simply as a replacement for Anders Björler. Englund was actively encouraged to bring as much of himself as he wanted to the band.
“I actually got a lot of space,” he says of his role in the creation of Exit Wounds. “They’d heard my music with Feared and they liked my riffs. That’s what Jensen told me when I first joined – ‘We don’t just want you to be a replacement for Anders, or a fill-in guitar player. We want you to bring your riffs and dynamics to the band and create the new Haunted’. And I think the band needed that to get a new dynamic sound to it that would make a return to form.”
On Exit Wounds, The Haunted dropped much of the cross-genre experimenting they had added to their oeuvre since Peter Dolving’s return when Aro quit in 2003. The result was a band that sounded closer to that of their first three albums than they had in many years.
“That was the only way to go, actually, with Dolving leaving,” Englund reasons. “With Dolving leaving and Marco coming back, we wanted to go back to the basic The Haunted sound. But of course, still have a melodic side to it. I don’t think people would have expected anything else with Marco. So I think we just gave what the fans really wanted.”
Keeping the fans happy is at the forefront of his mind. While he has a style of his own and wasn’t simply brought in as a mere replacement, Englund is also first and foremost a fan of the band he now finds himself in and has no wish to mess with their legacy by updating older songs with his own idiosyncracies.
“For me to replace Anders – it’s disbelief!,” he says with a laugh. “I’m playing his solos and stuff like that and for me it’s very important to pay respect to the original members so I’m copying exactly what Anders would play. I’m not replacing his solos or anything like that. I’m playing the songs like they should be played, like Anders would have played them. I get the chance to show my playing through the new songs. I try to pay respect as much as I can to how The Haunted did sound. I’m not trying to make the old songs my own or anything like that. And I think that goes for Marco as well. I think the fans want that. I know as a fan that’s what I would want.”
Englund had plenty of help preparing for his role too – from Anders Björler. He admits he had big shoes to fill, but the guy he replaced made things so much easier.
“Ever since I found out I was going to be in the band I just practised right away, just to make sure I could play all this stuff. Then again, when we played with At The Gates, the guy is standing by the stage watching! I did get kinda nervous, there’s no denying that! Anders helped me out when I joined The Haunted. He sent me all these videos of how to play all the songs. That’s an awesome thing to do. He definitely helped me get off the mark straight away. I’m very happy about that. He’s been awesome about it.”
Marco Aro originally departed The Haunted due to the pressures of constant touring. But the band is on the road much less these days, making his decision to return much easier. Englund explains that touring much less works better with the current band dynamic. He and Aro both have families and most of them except he and Erlandsson are also holding down regular jobs. He also points out that being in close quarters with each other for long periods is not ideal.
“It’s a good thing that we’re not touring as much so that when we get out there, we’re hungry and we don’t get sick of it. If we’re just doing short runs, we don’t get sick of each other and we’re having fun when we’re out there playing. You definitely get sick of being in the bus with the same guys. It’s not healthy!”
Catch The Haunted on their latest Australian tour with Insomnium:
14/5: HiFi Bar, Brisbane QLD (+ In Death…)
15/5: HiFi Bar, Melbourne VIC (+ Orpheus Omega)
16/5: Manning Bar, Sydney NSW (+ Daemon Pyre)