The Haunted Are No Longer Ghosts As We Sit Down With Marco Aro
11th May 2017, 11:03
Posted by Tristan
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As infamous saying goes, “Expect the unexpected”. Sharing this sentiment throughout their time as a band, The Haunted, a Swedish export of the highest calibre, have always had a a hint of turning things on their head. Now in the cold light of day that is 2017 their situation is very much different to their mid 00’s status. The reality of being in a band in 2017 is often perhaps not quite as glamorous as one might think. However, it does teach you a helpful life lesson to understand the sheer amount of work the hallowed “Roadie” goes through night after night. On the final night of their tour with Swedish demigods Meshuggah, The Haunted’s Marco Aro was able to spare a little bit of time to answer some questions about the band and their brand new album.

Sitting atop the soon to be full Forum, Aro is of a jovial nature. An understanding of precisely what makes The Haunted tick, the man knows exactly just how to feel before their absolutely blistering stage performance here tonight. Proving any naysayers wrong, the band, regardless of their current form could quite possibly in their healthiest state in years! When the tour was originally announced, I found myself perplexed at the pairing of the two bands. Sharing the same geographical nature, their music couldn’t be of a more different stand point.

The thing is that we have known each other for little over twenty years! My first show I ever did with Face Down was supporting Meshuggah in Stockholm in 1994. We’ve known these guys for a long time, it’s like a grown up day care on tour. It’s really, really fun. Like when we did the US tour with At The Gates. We’ve been sharing rehearsal rooms for twenty years. There’s nothing new, even if somebody gets drunk and says something. We’ll all just say “Ah he’s going to regret that tomorrow!”. Lets not make a big deal out of it. Its just like a group of old friends going out on tour so its really good! They went out of their way to make sure that we are getting everything that we need. As I said, we couldn’t afford a crew but we jumped on this tour just because it was so beneficial for us. Nowadays its not about the money anymore because we all have jobs, we’re doing it for all the right reasons, which is having fun. Meshuggah actually paid for our sound guy to come here, the three last shows. They actually dug out of their own pockets and paid to get him here. Thats how nice they are and thats what people do for your friends.

It seems that I have been sorely mistaken, particularly when the punters turn up later for what I can only describe are two absolutely flawless sets of impassioned aggression. Despite their history, The Haunted have had somewhat of a turbulent history in keeping a line up. At the top of their commercial game back in the heyday of the mid two thousands, the band are now in a slightly different state when it comes to touring.

“We got to the venue and then a few hours to get ready. We couldn’t afford to bring the crew so we’re humping it all ourselves. It’s a piece of humble pie, you get to, once again, be reminded of what the boys do for you every night with the crew. We have some strained backs. As soon as our set is done we break down the stage. It’s been cold sometimes but we did it before even twenty years ago when we couldn’t afford a crew then. Usually when we do the Nordic countries we help ourselves. Usually the payment is not very good if you want to come back home to your wife and not be ashamed! Thats what we are today. I really don’t mind it, I don’t. Because its like its supposed to be. I never believed that Rockstar bullshit kind of thing, I never did. The fame and everything. I want to play music and have fun with my friends and play for new friends and some old friends.

Nevertheless this new understanding of playing for themselves has led to the band creating material and most importantly a brand new album. Following on from their 2014 effort that was Exit Wounds, the band have been slowly but surely piecing together what we can now reveal will be their forthcoming new album Strength In Numbers. Though the record might not have been finished when we spoke with Aro, the man was positively beaming when talking about it.

Exit Wounds

“We’re actually sitting upstairs listening to the few songs that have been finalised, they’re just waiting for me to put the vocals on it. It sounds amazing. We’re going to do some stuff that we haven’t done before, in terms of the sound. You’re going to be able to tell its The Haunted. I can’t really explain how but we’re going to try some different avenues. Every discussion we have Im just saying “Its too slow man, its too slow” haha!”

So how was it then that Exit Wounds brought The Haunted screaming back into the spotlight of the Melodic Death Metal world. Simply put it was a new pair of ears. Enter new guitarist Ola Englund. Having previously shredded with Chris Barnes’ Six Feet Under as well as the tech heavy Feared the man is somewhat of a musical force to be reckoned with but most importantly in the case of The Haunted, a fan. Understanding exactly what it was that fans would be looking for in a new record the man was responsible for spearheading this campaign of what would come to be the bands strongest album in years.

“It didn’t start out that way. That we were going to do an aggressive come back but then Ola wrote one song called “Kill The Light” and he wrote that because he is the only person in the band, with no previous experience in the band. He’s not been in the band before and he wrote that song out of a pure fan perspective saying “This is what The Haunted is for me”. Thats when we decided, thats the road we’re going to take. If he, as a fan, writes a song, it should be for everybody else as well. He’s young and he’s got so much enthusiasm and that rubs off on us as well.”

Having now well established himself in the band, Englund’s confines are not simply to performing but writing. Stating that the man is currently responsible for fifty percent of the album’s output it seems that The Haunted are welcoming a new pair of ears to the stage. Fuelling this newfound sense of self, Aro’s positivity is infectious.

“Right now he’s fifty percent writing the whole thing. We’re still waiting for Jonas he’s a bit slow but he’ll get there! No but he usually comes in at the end and writes all of the amazing choruses because he’s got that melody head. Its going to be really, really good album. No one is going to be disappointed I’m sure. Its going to be aggressive but its also going to have finesse. Thats the only word I can find, finesse.”

Now with the addition of Englund, what exactly is  the make up of The Haunted. After having changed members so many times after so many years you could argue that the original formula of the band has been diluted. Not to mention the addition of seemingly everyone else being in multiple different bands. Jonas and Adrian Erlandsson being in not only just At The Gates but Paradise Lost as well as Vallenfyre, though he has since left now. Shaping the band’s musical palette, the difference in sound could well be down to the sheer amount of exposure each member has to a different sound, creating something altogether entirely unique.

I think what has shaped The Haunted now, is that one member has never been in the band and two members has been out of the band for quite some time. We come in with all different experiences as opposed to what they have been doing for quite some time. I’ve been doing a lot of aggressive projects because I like aggressive music. We did Face Down and The Resistance and Adrian has been playing in Paradise Lost. We all bring that new flavour into it because we have been elsewhere.

Nevertheless as much as the band might have a shared influence, the ten tonne hammer that is Aro shares more of a liking to the classic angst ridden sounds of Hardcore. Commenting on the likes of Black Flag and Dead Kennedy’s as well as some classic Gothenburg Death Metal, the man is well rooted in his choice of classic bands.

The older Swedish Death Metal, I love the Stockholm sound. Entombed, Dismember and then I am really, really into Hardcore. Thats probably more than Metal for me its Hardcore. More like the old stuff Dead Kennedy’s, Black Flag and also the newer stuff sneaks in there as well but once it gets to that I don’t really like the beatdown Hardcore. Its the douche at the gym, he’s the one on the vocals usually haha! We did a US tour with At The Gates and we had Harms Way, which is a beatdown band but the biggest ingredients in Stockholm was the Boss pedal called HM2. They use that.

With a band as heavily rotational as The Haunted, it must be a miracle that they are ever able to get together. Understanding exactly when each member is where is key to the sustainability that the band have been able to keep often giving priority to whatever vehicle might need it most, it makes for something that could be a logistical nightmare to be a walk in the park.

“Every member in that band has different other bands as well so we have this calendar that every body gets to see. When I did The Resistance, we said if you book a date, its yours until you say something else. Everybody sees that you have booked that date and its been working out really good. At The Gates had priority because they were out supporting their album so they could actually mandate what you were going to do but otherwise it was good.”

Writing can often be the hardest part of being a musician. Knowing what to write and when can be somewhat of a double edged sword. Elaborating on his various different ideas Aro has, he explains how some of the lyrical material has been coming together thus far.

I have this file on my computer where I just collect quotes and I actually have got ten different folders on my desktop. I put one sentence in each of those folders so when you open it and start writing its not blank. You’ve got something there to start with, its not just blank, it makes it a lot easier.

It doesn’t just extend to Aro however, a key element that has always been with The Haunted is their inspired understanding of dynamics. Be it the tripped up triplets of “99” or the likes of Versus’ “Ceremony” where simple use of the classic Gothenburg melody can bring an entirely different mood to a track or particular favourite of mine the relentless pounding of “Crusher’ whose outdo features an inspired use of the flanger that wouldn’t make you think of an eighties band going out of fashion.

“I don’t know if its conscious, I think it comes automatically. Jonas, he’s really good that way and his brother is amazing that way. Anders is not writing now but Ola is like that as well times ten. The thing is that I don’t get that surprised as everybody else gets about The Haunted because I know whats coming. I know how they write music. When I’m listening to a new track, this one is coming “Oh yeah there you go!” Its interesting that people really like the dynamics of it because I don’t see the dynamics anymore. Theres a certain order in every song. If you start thinking about it, its two verses, one chorus, you know the order.”

Despite putting on one of the most ferocious displays of aggression here tonight, Aro swears that as a bloke he isn’t aggressive. Wanting somewhat of a quiet life, the post touring order of the day sees the man listening to material that could well surprise just about anyone. Yet herein lies The Haunted’s genius, at times predictable, meant in the best way possible the band have a habit of turning what you think might be heading your way entirely on its head. As Aro finishes up our interview with the curveball of the revelation that he’s a Baroness fan its a fitting allegory to the band themselves and their seemingly unending ability to surprise and amaze even now twenty one years into the game.

A Swedish band called In Mourning, they are a very, very good band. They just released a new album as well and then Baroness! Its one of my love affairs. The thing is when I get home I never listen to aggressive music. The best Christmas present I ever got was from my wife when she bought the whole Thin Lizzy back catalogue. I listen to the older stuff, I can’t really relate to that new stuff. Its just not for me!

The Haunted have completed work on their brand new album titled Strength In Numbers and is set for an August 25th release via Century Media.