The Haunted One Kill Wonder

Their last album, The Haunted Made Me Do It, was as close to perfect as modern thrash will ever get, so the pressure is on to see if Sweden's finest can deliver again. Of course they can, and to rise to the challenge, they've done a few things differently. The production sound isn't quite as polished as last time around, although whether or not it sounds better is open to debate. Either way, it sounds great, natural and raw. The clean vocals and catchy choruses that they did so well last time are all but gone, paving the way for a more straight-ahead thrash onslaught. A few slower tempo songs also creep in here, although they don't lack in heaviness. An interesting turn of events, as one of the biggest buzz bands in metal attempts to do something different to keep things lively. And of course the album totally rages, with the Haunted proving anything they touch is instant gold. Overall, it's missing some of the hooks of the last album; those songs drilled into most listeners' brains pretty damn fast, and while these ones will, they'll take a few more listens to get there. Highlights include raging opening cut "Godpuppet," the surprisingly In Flames-ish "Shadow World," and "D.O.A." and "Downward Spiral," the catchiest cuts on the album. The Haunted once again have put their peers to shame and solidified their position as thrash kings of the new millennium. (Earache)