REVIEW: THE HALO EFFECT – “Days Of The Lost”
When The Halo Effect announced their arrival on the scene, there was elation amongst the melodic death metal community. Here was an act boasting not only long-time friends, but luminaries of two titan bands from the genre who had joined forces to become a super group. This obviously made anticipation for the band’s music quite high, particularly when the band has self-described themselves as wanting “to go back to the roots and explore what groundbreaking metal sounded like” during the rise of their other projects in the 1990’s. In a period where melodeath as many have known it has seemed to wane due to the rise of core and progressive metal, The Halo Effect’s highly anticipated debut album Days of the Lost comes in swiftly as a bastion of hope for long-time fans of the genre. But has the band managed to achieve their mission statement and bring back the power of the golden era of melodeath?
Opening the album with their first single Shadowminds the band really shows their hand from the get-go. The melodic riffs on this track perfectly transition through the introduction, choruses and verses in a seamless fashion and are all layered brilliantly over a well-paced drum and bass section. The song also has a well-placed escalating scale solo in it that feels like a deep throwback to the Gothenburg sound of the 90’s and really helps to wrap the track up nicely. It’s easy to see why this track was selected as the band’s debut single as it works as the perfect mission statement for what is to come. Following on from this is title track Days of the Lost. Sporting a more frenetic upbeat tone, this song has an exuberant and infectious melody that is carried along by a galloping bass section making it a real body mover.
The Needless End diverges pretty heartily from its predecessors and employs a slower and more nuanced pace. It doesn’t take much for the earworm of a melody to rest firmly in the listeners subconscious, and Mikael Stanne’s vocal delivery coming over the top of it really packs a strong emotive punch. There are some interesting uses of pauses and tempo changes in this track too which help keep it feeling fresh and unique after several listens.
Subsequent track Conditional plays one of the biggest mind-games on listeners, starting out as a very slow-paced melodic guitar piece before barrelling into one of the fastest tracks on the album. The verses of the song remove a bit more of the melody that its predecessors had which gives the song a stronger thrash sensibility; however, the chorus injects a ton of that melody back in and creates a memorable and lasting burst of a chorus that will probably become a hallmark sing-along piece of the band’s live performances.
The bombastic nature of In Broken Trust feels like the first real divergence of genre on the album. The heavier distortion of the guitar gives the song a grittier feel, and the solo feels much more theatrical than the other songs. However, it’s the slower pacing and the clean vocal choruses that really differentiate this song from the others, and its tactful placing at the mid-point of the record hits you when you least expect it.
Subsequent track Gateways again takes the listener on a different journey that channels a more spiritual and ethereal side of the band. The nuanced pacing of the track sparks in direct contrast to some of the earlier songs, but the emotive outpouring through the lyrical themes and sombre melodies makes this song an instant standout on the album.
The next one-two punch of A Truth Worth Lying For and Feel What I Believe returns the band to a more stereotypical melodic death metal sound, with the former harnessing slick melodies over a rollicking drum and bass line, before the latter takes that same energy and pushes it to another level.
Not content to have the substance drop in their last few tracks, the band subverts listener expectations on Last of Our Kind by opening with a strong instrumental passage before bursting into a darkened fist bumping anthem, before closing out the album with The Most Alone, a melodic roller-coaster that packs severe emotive energy, before unleashing one of the better solos on the album.
The first thing that is instantly noticeable across these tracks is the melodic vibrance on the album. While it would be very quick to pigeon hole the band into a melodic death metal genre typecast due to their personnel and history, the overall tone and feel of these songs make it more appropriate to just label them as melodic metal. While it still carries those classical Gothenburg melodies, and the lyrical themes still skirt around the existentialism or self-introspect that frequently accompanies these artists, the overall feel is generally more upbeat and energetic. Songs like the title track, Shadowminds and Feel What I Believe might all sound starkly different, yet exude this vibrant energy which will be sure to reverberate strongly with listeners. It’s important to acknowledge this for anyone that might have been thinking that this band would just be another rehash of In Flames, Dark Tranquillity and even Cyhra, and while the influence of these bands obviously permeates through these songs, Days of the Lost sounds so completely removed and unique from them that it helps the band pay homage, while sounding distinctly unique.
The dual guitar combo of Jesper Strömblad and Niclas Engelin is about as formidable as they come. These two clearly embraced the mission statement of going back to their roots and have found masterful ways of modernizing a ton of melodies that would have been well at home in the 90’s. Standout moments like the ear worm melody on Conditional or the solo on Gateways are bound to get a reaction from most listeners, showcasing the real strength behind this guitar combination.
On that same token, the guitar work is platformed beautifully over the bass and drumming of Peter Iwers and Daniel Svensson respectively. These two have spent the better part of two decades belting out tracks together, and it’s very easy to see that this relationship contributed to the smoothness of some of these songs. In fact, the underlying theme across all the members of the band really is this longstanding connection that they all share, and while this may only be a debut album, this connection is helping them to fire like an act that has been performing for several decades at the top of their game.
Finally, Mikael Stanne on vocals delivers one of his best performances after 30 years in the game. His voice carries the gravitas of many of these songs, with a stand out example being the clean passages in In Broken Trust. While there’s not much on here that differs from Stanne’s regular performances, his delivery feels that bit more impeccable than what you have come to expect from him after all this time, and is sure to meet long time fans of his work like a warm blanket on a cold winter night.
When taken as a complete package, the curated effort that has gone into this record and the band’s comradery exhibited during the press cycle for this album show that The Halo Effect is definitely a labor of love for all these members. If their energy and exuberance already displayed during live performances is anything to go by then it looks like the band is just getting settled on its path, and it seems like there are exciting things on the horizon. The Halo Effect set out to go back to their roots and explore what groundbreaking metal sounded like in their personnel’s formative years, and their brilliant fusion of past and present, combined with a look towards the future, makes Days of the Lost an invigorating album that is sure to be an instant classic with many listeners.