The Halo Effect – Days of the Lost (Album Review)

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Former In Flames members and stars from across the melodeath scene come together once again under The Halo Effect’s banner to produce a compelling album in “Days of the Lost,” that whilst hardly revolutionary, often hits exactly the spot you want it to. The back to roots approach of The Halo Effect will have its fans and its detractors, but deeper than tribalistic rivalries between fans of the newer forms of In Flames and other melodeath bands runs an air of relatively consistent quality the deserves more than the surface level approach most people who initially hear of the album will probably give it.

Right from the start, “Days of the Lost” is introduced with bombast, force, and intent with the direct and expansive “Shadowminds.” From its raspy harsh vocals to its staggered yet explosive percussion, there’s an instantly recognizable style in “Shadowminds” that doesn’t try to hide the bands influences, whilst simultaneously there’s enough little flicks and flairs throughout the track that The Halo Effect are able to stomp their own distinctive essence onto these influences that result in something that’s both in touch the well-defined core of melodeath and also has the compositional quality to stand out just enough from other bands in the genre to prevent it from instantaneously becoming trite.

With a slightly more epic and anthemic feel, track number two, the album titled “Days of the Lost” utilities breakneck speed and well balanced melodic and chaotic elements to create an oddly catchy yet thoroughly heavy track that consistently remains entertaining and encourages moderately embarrassing public head banging. I’m a big fan of how the track flows, with long periods of intensity separated up by a restrained yet effective solo.

So far so good then on an album that really with its pedigree ought to deliver. It’s good to see the band have their own little style within the genre, as it would be far too easy for them to simply dive into the sounds that they were famous for in their original bands, a sound which those bands themselves have also since deserted for better and for worse (my goodness was it for worse with In Flames for a while.) I’d be lying if I said it was totally removed from its roots, but that isn’t what most of The Halo Effect’s main listener base want from “Days of the Lost.” Often, I believe it is harder to create an authentic synthesis of sounds and approaches than it is to simply wipe the slate clean and embark on a new sonic journey, and so far, this record does this with aplomb.

Of course, a melodic death metal album wouldn’t be complete without a song that vaguely harkens memories of Iron Maiden meeting harsher musical styles with a prominent galloping drumbeat, power metal inspired high register, super bright and harmonic guitars meeting loud as a toddler with a pot and pan production and vocals that are harsh, but not really that harsh if you sit and think about it. The effect is a rather engaging and energetic track in “The Needless End” that perhaps adds a bit of compositional intricacy to an album that in its initial throws seems to focus more upon bluntly representing itself with rather telegraphed stylistic decisions rather than the more refined and complex affairs that follow later.

Hot on the heels of “The Needless End” is the deceptively calm opening “Conditional” which rather spontaneously explodes into a true death metal section that eventually begins to resemble a more technical death style of noodly, rhythmically complex harshness as the song progressive and settles into its proverbial groove which ends perhaps ever so slightly too soon. There’s a lot of sonic evolution here, but it feels ever so slightly shoehorned in and it would be fair to say that I didn’t feel any of the three distinctive styles on display throughout the song ever actually had enough time to gel and thus capitalize on their maximum possible impact.

There’s a good variety of styles present on “Days of the Lost” that always seem to fit under the melodeath label in one way or another, perhaps this is to the benefit of the album, or perhaps it is to the detriment of it. Which of those possibilities you decide will be largely down to the degree of experimentation and flair you expect from a record in this sub-genre. I personally do not expect an awful lot, so I am by and large satisfied with it.

“Days Of The Lost” Album Artwork

Sitting slap bang in the middle of the album is the super contemporary and somewhat mystical sounding “In Broken Trust.” With Eurasian inspired riffage and a super melodic and clean vocal bedecked chorus, it’s a dynamic and enjoyable song that is clearly distinct from the songs that preceded it. It does have to be said however that the clean vocals are middle of the road, sounding ever so slightly flat and with an odd Southern style twang added onto them that perhaps sounds a bit out of place in a song both this heavy and this technical.

The same clean vocals are present in the altogether more tense and melancholic “Gateways” which additionally features perhaps the most prominent bass guitar on the album so far. There’s a good little bass groove that represents the melodic side of  death metal in a somewhat unorthodox and zany way, and frankly if this song is anything to go by, I’d like to hear it more. The bass guitar can be such a moody and foreboding instrument when used right, and the opening segment of “Gateways” is a really good example of this. Later parts of the song are solidly handled if not perhaps ever so slightly bland, but ultimately, the track as a whole is a worthy addition to the album it sits upon.

Possibly the slight blandness of “Gateways” does suggest something about the wider state of the album. For all the different approaches present, for all that makes “Days of the Lost” compelling, there’s this every so slightly inescapable feeling of it perhaps lacking that final bit of Je ne sais quoi that would create something specially, something memorable, something that would inform the future stylistic trappings of the genre, but that just isn’t present here. That doesn’t mean that “Days of the Lost” is a bad album, or that it has nothing to offer the average listener, but it just means that ultimately, it feels condemned to anonymity and to just become another album in a discography that hardcore fans only will remember with any sort of perceptible fondness.

Starting off with strained and tension wrought guitars before congealing into a dense and chuggy mass, “A Truth Worth Lying For” is yet another good installment on this collection of songs. Of particular note here is the way in which the otherwise unspectacular clean vocals that were used before back on “In Broken Trust” manage to really clearly display what are perhaps the most emotionally nuanced lyrics on the album, which tackles existential themes of nihilism, absurdism and the inability of man to reconcile the way in which he conducts his daily affairs with what he ultimately in a more arcane sense considers to be true. I wouldn’t say “Days of the Lost” is an album with lyrics that are either memorably good or memorable bad for the most part, but “A Truth Worth Lying For” in and of itself contains lyrics that no doubt will resonate with the sorts of people who most often find themselves drawn to darker strains of metal and music in general.

Instantaneously ramping the intensity back up on the other hand is “Feel What I Believe.” Potentially packing the hardest opening of the entire album, this cut is a much-needed injection of adrenaline into a good but much softer segment of the album that contained rather a lot of “melo” but not an awful lot of “death.” This track is here to remind everyone that The Halo Effect and “Days of the Lost” haven’t gone all soft and sentimental on you, and furthermore that they still have it in them to produce sonically intriguing yet all together still crushing tracks that combine intensity with a degree of refinement in a way unmatched by many other bands of their kind.

A unique selling point of this album is the way in which brutality and melody are merged together in a complimentary manner that does provide something that is worth listening to. I think there’s on balance more reasons to appreciate this album than to critique it, it knows it’s audience, it knows it’s core and it knows exactly how to go about reflecting both.

Who doesn’t love a good string section in their metal music? Well, “Last of Our Kind” has a wonderfully orchestrated and sensibility implemented orchestral opening with super clear and effective strings building the tension for another of the more intense songs on “Days of the Lost”. It’s not particularly distinctive, yet everything just feels so well sown together here, there’s an intangible quality to “Last of Our Kind” that really does credit to the bands credentials as legends of the scene.

Last, but not least, is “The Most Alone” which right from the get-go feels very conclusive and this conclusive vibe does continue strongly throughout the rest of the track. There’s some great solo work, the same consistently good harsh vocals that adorn most of the album are used again to good effect here, slight melancholic passages are met by aggressive and bold sections of harshness which themselves are accented by expertly crafted and honed melodic elements that come together to generate a track that does well to represent almost every element that was thrown into the record across its runtime.

Ultimately, what is present within “Days of the Lost” is a well-honed, well put together and thoroughly good album with few moments where the quality ever drops below the point of acceptable variance, and yet nor does it often enough reach the dizzying heights of 2022 releases to justify a claim as one of the best albums of the year. If you’re looking for the spectacular, you won’t find it here, if you’re looking for consistently high-quality melodeath with a traditional bent, this is right up your alley.

Order “Days Of The Lost” HERE

Released By: Nuclear Blast Records
Release Date: August 12th, 2022
Genre(s): Melodic Death Metal

Musicians:

  • Mikael Stanne / Vocals
  • Jesper Strömblad / Guitars
  • Niclas Engelin / Guitars
  • Peter Iwers / Bass
  • Daniel Svensson / Drums

“Days of The Lost” Track-listing:

1. Shadowminds
2. Days Of The Lost
3. The Needless End
4. Conditional
5. In Broken Trust
6. Gateways
7. A Truth Worth Lying For
8. Feel What I Believe
9. Last Of Our Kind
10. The Most Alone

 
 

7.8 Great

Fans of classic melodeath need look no further than “Days of the Lost” for their fix of well balanced and intelligently composed music. However, those looking for true excellence and experimentation wont find an awful lot here to keep them interested beyond an initial listen

  • Songwriting 7
  • Musicianship 8
  • Originality 8
  • Production 8
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