Absolution Not a Frozen Room
The Haunted & God Forbid @ The Mean Fiddler, London, 23 November 2005
by: Jackie Smit
The peculiar absence of the marijuana haze that typically hangs like an impenetrable, dense fog in the Mean Fiddler, as well as comparatively few sightings of drunken buffoonery, means that tonight starts off on an almost surreal note. By the way that the audience has thinned out since The Haunted last graced a London stage, you could almost be conned into believing that some sort of gig-goers Gestapo has done away with the riffraff that in the past have been instrumental in many a ruined evening for everyone in their close proximity.

But that's all relative. Tonight has more to do with The Haunted redeeming themselves for a piss-poor showing earlier in the year, and after a thundering set by New Jersey natives God Forbid, they certainly have their work cut out for them in more ways than one. Kicking off with "The End of the World", the opening track to their latest effort, _IV: Constitution of Treason_, the burly quintet are firing on all cylinders from the get-go. Surprisingly it takes upward of two additional songs before the length and breadth of the audience are returning in kind, but by the time the band launch into "Into the Wasteland", nary a hand isn't being thrown skywards in a horned salute. That God Forbid are a force currently on the cusp of bigger and better things is in no doubt by the time the crowd is bid farewell, and with a handful of songs being criminally overlooked on tonight's setlist ("Under This Flag" being an especially dastardly omission), we're left with more than enough incentive to catch these guys when they hit the UK again in March next year.

Which brings us to The Haunted, a band I have seen both decimate every other act on a bill, and being made to look like chumps by all but the stage hands. Thankfully tonight leans heavily toward the former, and the sense that God Forbid has provided some much needed competition for the band who -- let's face it -- were veering dangerously close to complacency for a while, is underlined by the energy and intensity of every band member as they crank up "No Compromise". There's no letting up either as the Swedes proceed to fire off a salvo of favorites that includes "99", "Shadow World", "Chasm", "Sabotage", and "Abysmal", delivering each song with razor-sharp precision and onstage energy to match.

Throughout their one hour set, audience interaction is kept to a bare minimum; Peter Dolving stopping only to encourage punters who downloaded the band’s last effort to buy more than one item from the merchandise booth. But rather than make the band appear disinterested -- as it did last time round -- it lends a sense of purpose to the evening's proceedings. And if that intention included vindicating themselves for February's dismal performance, then after tonight The Haunted can quite confidently pat themselves on the back for a job very well done.

(article submitted 2/12/2005)

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