Artist: The Halo Effect
Album Title: Days Of The Lost
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Date of Release: 12 August 2022
I will be honest from the very beginning of this review and declare that I have been looking forward to this release for several months, from the point at which The Halo Effect was first revealed. It isn’t every day after all, that something like this is announced. Featuring four ex members and a current member of In Flames, many of us hoped that maybe, just maybe, we might hear some new music in the mould of the In Flames of yesteryear. To be perfectly clear though, I am a fan of all eras of In Flames, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Yes, I prefer the likes of ‘The Jester Race’ and ‘Colony’ to the more recent, modern output. But the new stuff isn’t all bad when taken on their own merits as opposed to being compared to what the band used to sound like.
Regardless, 2022 sees the release of ‘Days Of The Lost’, the debut full-length from The Halo Effect, comprised of vocalist Mikael Stanne, guitarists Jesper Strömblad and Niclas Engelin, bassist Peter Iwers, and drummer Daniel Svensson. I told you it was mouth-watering, as these are not bit-part players in the history of one of the early and best pioneers of the Gothenburg melodic death metal sound. Jesper Strömblad was a founding member of the ‘Jesterheads’, whilst the others played significant roles in the band, with Engelin still in place. And Mikael Stanne? Well, after an initial stint in In Flames that many are unaware of, he now fronts one of the other best bands within the movement, Dark Tranquillity.
I’ve heard a lot of noise on the Internet over recent months as to whether The Halo Effect would be ‘In Flames 2.0’, ‘In Flames reborn’, ‘Dark Tranquillity 2.0’, or any number of other comments along similar lines. I could spend hours debating the topic too, but I won’t. Instead, what I will declare, is that ‘Days Of The Lost’ is simply a high quality melodic death metal record that can only originate from Sweden. Given the musicians involved, it will come as absolutely no surprise that the resulting ten songs have things in common with both bands, with In Flames’ ‘Colony’ or ‘Whoracle’, and Dark Tranquillity’s ‘Haven’ or ‘Projector’ most prevalent along the way. If you like any or all of these albums, then The Halo Effect are a band you are going to want to hear.
But crucially, this is a record that’s band up-to-date and certainly relevant in the modern metal world. This is partially down to the production which is as clear and muscular as you’d want, courtesy of Oscar Nilsson at CreHate Studio, who worked closely with Strömblad and Engelin throughout the process. Additionally, though, the music feels just right, walking the fine line between rose-tinted nostalgia and befitting of the here and now.
If you had any doubts about the quality of the album, they are blown away by the opening cut, ‘Shadowlands’, a sub-four-minute blast of catchy and properly heavy melodeath that reminds me slightly more of Dark Tranquillity than In Flames, although both loom large in the composition. The riffing is clean, pecise, and engaging, the chorus is a monster, and the leads, trade-offs, and embellishments just hit the right spot. Nothing is overdone, or extraneous, whilst Stanne delivers his familiar rasping growl with vigour. It feels like the band had a good time putting this all together and that shines through in the sense of fun that is palpable.
The title track, meanwhile, has that lead guitar line melody that makes it initially feel like a previously unreleased track from ‘Whoracle’ or ‘Colony’. But again, there’s more to this song, that means it isn’t an identikit clone. The experience and maturity of the musicians is brought to bear here to ensure that the song hits the right mark, making me smile, bang my head, and thrash about the Mansion Of Much Metal as if I am in my teens again. Sadly though, I’m not, so when parts of my body protest or make worrying noises, I return to my laptop and continue this review.
I could go on to describe each and every one of the songs on ‘Days Of The Lost’, but this doesn’t serve much purpose, because by and large, the quintet make their general modus operandi clear from the beginning, about which you’ll either be as equally giddy as I, or completely disinterested. This is an incredibly consistent record, ensuring that the last song is as powerful as the first.
That being said, The Halo Effect do mix things up a touch, ‘In Broken Trust’ being the first prime example. It opens with a really modern-sounding intro, accented by electronic sounds and a chunky riff. But then it goes all dark and moody with a greater use of atmospheric synths. And the chorus unleashes Stanne’s wonderfully resonant and mellifluous clean voice, bringing those ‘Projector’ comparisons a little more to the fore. It’s a cracking chorus that some may deride as being too mainstream sounding, but I love it, as I do the solos that ensue later in the song.
This isn’t the only use of clean vocals, as proven by the excellent ‘A Truth Worth Lying For’, which ends with a classic melodeath acoustic-led outro. But for the most part, the growls dominate, to add the much-needed bite and edge to the compositions. And whilst I like both of Stanne’s deliveries, I do believe that they got the balance absolutely spot-on with this record.
I will admit that I didn’t completely fall for the charms of ‘Days Of The Lost’ right away. I was buoyed by the quality of the early singles, and I enjoyed the album on a first spin. However, call it cynicism or suchlike, but I did wonder whether the album would have the necessary longevity as it felt just a bit too easy and polished initially. I have put this concern firmly to bed though, as I have lived with this record for quite some time and am genuinely delighted to be able to confirm that ‘Days Of The Lost’ loses none of its charm or impact; in fact, it only gets better. All self-respecting fans of 90s style Scandinavian melodic death metal need this album in their collection, and that’s the bottom line.
The Score of Much Metal: 92%