Latest release: Strength in Numbers (Century Media)Website: www.the-haunted.com
Gothenburg metal machine The Haunted have just unleashed their ninth album in the form of Strength in Numbers, the second album since the return of Marco Aro and Adrian Erlandsson in 2013. A solid continuation of their patented thrash- and groove-laced melodic death metal sound, we caught up with guitarist and founder Patrik Jensen over Skype to discuss the motives behind the album and the influence of AC/DC on his songwriting.
This is the second album with the current line-up, Patrik, so how is the dynamic of the band now?
It feels like we’ve gelled together even more as a band as compared to Exit Wounds when we got Marco and he came back to the band, and Ola was the new guy. Now we’ve found our… you know you have to have a certain level of communication when you work together as a tight-knit unit. So there’s communication and who does what, and I think the band has come together on this album.
When you’re talking about who does what, what was the songwriting distribution on the record?
On Exit Wounds it was mostly me and Jonas because we are the old dogs in the band. Ola was a lot more confident on this album, and obviously when you join a band that’s been around for such a long time, that has already a certain style developed, you often need to get to know that style. Not just to play the songs, but to be in band properly. So with this album, Ola knew a lot more about the core or the soul of The Haunted, and that’s why I think he was a lot more confident bringing material for it. Actually for this album I would say that Ola has written about five.
What do you think he’s brought to The Haunted with his writing and playing?
Well he is a few years younger than us, so he brings inspiration not only from Black Sabbath but one of his favourite bands is Pantera, so he brings some inspiration from there, mainly in his solos. Anders Bjorler played solos but they were almost weaved into the rhythm parts rather than the flashy Yngwie Malmsteen solos. Ola does a lot more of the bends and squeals and brings an extra dimension to the band.
What’s it been like playing off each other in the live situation?
Well me and the singer have always been the ones who wanted to stand almost in the crowd,whereas Jonas and Anders were always happy to hang in the background and they get caught up in playing. But Ola’s a bit more like Marco and me, standing at the barricade, really in the face of the audience. So live when we play, we can go over to each others’ sides and shadow each other. There’s a good vibe to the band, there’s no walking on eggshells like there might be sometimes in bands. It’s a good atmosphere, and when we write together I can show him riffs and he can tell me, ‘No, those riffs aren’t good’ and likewise when he shows me something. We have very open lines of communication. Ola’s a great guy and I’m very happy that we have him in the band.
Is Strength in Numbers as much about how the band is working together as it is a theme for the album?
That’s a very interesting observation. I might have to steal that for future interviews! Strength in Numbers came from current events… there’s been some crazy outcomes, lately. When you want a great change, for example if you want a pay raise in a factory or something, your chances go up when you are many people. And not all the things that come from many people getting together are good, so they’re not always changes for the better. …It’s just an observation of our times right now. Public opinion can be swayed by Facebook or by… who’s to say what is the truth these days. No one trusts anyone anymore. We don’t take any sides. Maybe it is better for the UK to leave the EU – I don’t know! It’s good that people have voted. Democracy’s the best thing we have. It might not be perfect, but it would be good if people just checked their facts and knew what they were voting for and not just getting angry over some burnt toast or something.
So do you consider this album to be particularly political, or are you just making observations?
It’s just making observations. We’ve never been a political band to my knowledge. Peter Dolving never did political lyrics either. He was more introspective. This is just an observation. The whole Brexit thing affects everyone in the world, just like climate change does. Maybe saying climate change is real is also political. I think it’s proven, so it’s just there. So we just wanted to have something important to write about for a few songs. It’s not a political statement as such.
I’ve talked to quite a lot of bands during this current political climate and many of them agree that it’s pretty conducive for some powerful music once again. Would you agree?
Oh yeah. When Mr Donald Trump won the election, I was really looking forward to hearing some more new punk music!
Speaking of punk music, would you say that The Haunted has something of a punk ethic?
I formed the band along with the drummer Adrian a long time ago, and I am a huge AC/DC fan. And in the beginning, we got a lot of questions about our songs – they were too short, they start abruptly and they leave you like you’ve been slapped around or something, and the journalists were asking if I had a lot of anger or if I was an angry person. I’m not an angry person. It all comes from watching videos with Angus Young. The whole thrash thing for me is like a physical workout. So when you ask me if there’s a punk angle… from the beginning, when I started to write the songs it was a whole thrash thing. I’m not much of a Pink Floyd fan! Those early AC/DC albums, with the short songs, straight to the point with a heavy focus on the rhythms… maybe today it might be seen as punk, but it really comes from AC/DC.
There were a few times where you expanded your style a bit too, when Dolving was trying some different things, but you always managed to come back to your basic sound.
I don’t think there’s too many bands that started at the same time as us that have tried as many different styles as we have done. We have always played what we want. People may say that album is not as good, or whatever, but I still love those old albums, because without them we wouldn’t be the band we are today. A band has to play what it wants to play. You can’t play on demand.
The Dead Eye, which a lot of people didn’t like, is perhaps my favourite album from The Haunted because it presented a different viewpoint of the band.
That album has everything. It has heavy songs, it has brooding songs, it has very sad songs, it has melodic songs, and in the overall atmosphere of that album… you know on those classic albums they have that feeling that this album is an album. Of all the albums we put out, The Dead Eye has that feeling. This is an album: no song can be taken away, no song can be added. It has that dark feeling about it. I’ve very proud of having done The Dead Eye.
It’s been twenty years now of The Haunted. What continues to inspire you to go out there and create music?
I don’t think I’ll ever be rid of it. It’s just something that’s there. I wouldn’t be a happy person if I didn’t have a band I could write music for. Plain and simple. As far as inspiration, when you hear older people who say that music was better fifty years ago, or whatever… I listen to the old stuff, but I still manage to find inspiration. We play festivals… there’s so many festivals here in Europe and you can see your old heroes play and you’re standing there on stage with a beer in your hand going, This is good. You get inspiration again from the same old bands, seeing them live, hanging out… there’s always things to get inspiration from.
So has it all been a blur for you?
Well I still think that I’m 25! It’s crazy, and I still do things on stage that I did when I was 25, and it feels like there’s no way we’ve been around for 20 years, but I guess we have! But if I do say so myself, that if a band is able to put out an album like Strength in Numbers then that band is still valid to be around. There’s a lot of bands that just coast and put out not-so-great albums anymore. But all our albums have had a certain quality to them, I think. I’m super proud of Strength in Numbers and I think we’re still a band to be reckoned with.