Shockingly, this one wasn't even close.
The Haunted's ninth studio album Strength In Numbers takes a couple of tracks to build up a full head of steam, but once it does, look out! The album harnesses unsurprisingly killer performances from drummer Adrian Erlandsson and guitarists Ola Englund and Patrik Jensen, in service of material that is both accessible and savage. Indeed, the joy of Strength In Numbers comes not from innovation (there are very few surprises on here) but from the gusto with which they devote themselves to their formulae. All in all, this is a very solid and straightforward album. Its charms are clear and undeniable, as are its flaws.
Thankfully for The Haunted, the same can be said of The Grinding Wheel, Overkill's eighteenth album. As ever, it's hard to think of this album as anything other than yet another result of the Overkill Inc. Product Process, in which the band seemingly release the same thrash record every two years (with updated production values and other tweaks for freshness). This one sounds like White Devil Armory sounds like Ironbound sounds like W.F.O. etc. And, lest you think I'm being harsh, keep in mind that this usually works really well for the band! But not today, not with this album, and not after The Haunted. Overkill has always flirted with coming off as juvenile and regressive, but it sounds particularly tired when compared with Strength In Numbers.
The Haunted take the day! How far can they go in this tournament? Tomorrow, either Northlane or Soen will distinguish themselves with a win, and thus volunteer as The Haunted's next challengers.