The Halo Effect – Days of the Lost
Released: August 12, 2022
Mikael Stanne // Vocals
Niclas Engelin // Guitar
Jesper Strömblad // Guitar
Peter Iwers // Bass
Daniel Svensson // Drums
Has the Nuclear Blast album of the year been delivered by a band releasing their debut album? Quite possibly. ‘Debut album’ is a questionable way to put it admittedly, considering each of the musicians in The Halo Effect are not exactly nobodies; they’re actually far from it. This Swedish outfit is a complete In Flames / Gothenburg melodic death metal (melodeath) overflow if you will.
The Halo Effect notably includes one non-ex-official-In Flames member; vocalist Mikael Stanne, who fronts fellow melodeath Swedes Dark Tranquillity. However, Stanne did session vocals for In Flames‘ debut record Lunar Strain. The timeline of the remaining former In Flames members is as follows: Niclas Engelin from 1997-1998 and from 2011-2018, Peters Iwers from 1997-2016, Daniel Svensson from 1998-2015 and Jesper Strömblad from 1990-2010. What all these ex-In Flames metalers have in common is their presence within the Scandinavian band in some capacity in the 90s; an era when many fans would argue was the In Flames sweet spot, at least from a melodeath perspective.
Now for the record, let it be known that I personally loved many of In Flames‘ more contemporary records, even when they deviated from purist melodeath, and I found that albums like Reroute to Remain, Come Clarity and A Sense of Purpose delivered a post-Scandi-metal-sound that thrives on epic hooks, immense emotion and bravery for experimentation. However, there are undoubtedly the elitists who have a violent reaction to their more recent era and that is certainly quite fine, because with The Halo Effect, all that 2000s/2010s bashing of the band becomes a waste of energy. The In Flames melodeath sound is back, well and truly, just under a different moniker.
It’s also worth noting that the current format of In Flames have returned in 2022 with a couple of eyebrow-raising singles ‘State of Slow Decay‘ and ‘The Great Deceiver‘ and despite my subjective positivity on this duo of releases, the comments aggregate across YouTube, Reddit and social media summarise overwhelmingly welcome accolades from those who’ve missed Gothenburg music that sounds like Lunar Strain, The Jester Race and Whoracle.
The Halo Effect have prepared a ten-track record called Days of the Lost, and through mind-blowing singles they’ve given fans a taster of almost half the album with ‘Shadowminds‘, ‘The Needless End‘, ‘Days of the Lost‘, and ‘Feel What I Believe‘. Melodeath fans are freaking out, and as they should; it’s a marvelous meal of heavy metal. So, without further ado, prefacing and contextualising – let’s tear this beast apart.
‘Shadowminds‘ is the first song we ever heard from The Halo Effect and the first track on Days of the Lost; and it’s rather quintessential. The greatness of this song is not only its directional melodeath, but its all-so-familiar tuning to that of 90s In Flames sound, which struck us all with a very special bond. Stanne has adapted superbly to how he needs to sound with an outfit and album like this, with nuances different to that of how he performs with Dark Tranquillity. He leads the entire band to that initial instrumental solo that will have all the 90s nostalgia flooding your mind. An opening track is often rather telling, and one of the factors that’s telling this time is the ultimate euphoria of 90s melodeath with 20s production/mixing quality *chef’s kiss*.
Compared to ‘Shadowminds‘, title track ‘Days of the Lost‘ takes on more of the melodic side of this fantastic style, but without reverting to a slower pace or clean vocals – at all. Songs like this and ‘The Needless End‘ showcase the mastery of these musicians who hone in on a very specific approach and style to heavy metal, almost a cultural nod to their hometown. However, the difference is that The Halo Effect go deeper with ‘The Needless End‘ in their aspirational approach to the brutal side of this album, and once again – Stanne is a very big part of that in his deeper vocal range.
‘In Broken Trust‘ is a ferocious track with pounding bass and tickling ominous riffs that burst into a deathly medley, it’s a track that definitely sticks out on the record, particularly as it brings in a first look at clean vocals, At first I thought it must be a feature from Soilwork‘s Bjorn ‘Speed’ Strid but there was no reference to him in the tracklist. With the stark insertion of clean vocals, your melodeath trance may break and whilst it sounds far more like Strid than Stanne, it’s worth listening back to Dark Tranquillity releases like ‘Atoma‘ to hear Stanne’s cleans. Whilst this confirms it’s in fact Stanne, his clean vocal style has certainly evolved over the years and mirrors a style to that of The Halo Effect‘s Gothenburg friends Soilwork.
As we pass the mid-point of this amazing album, ‘Gateways‘ continues down the route of ominous whispering gruff vocals before the band undergo so specifically timed and considered instrumentation. As remarkable as this entire band is, there’s something truly fascinating about the way Engelin and Strömblad team up to emulate a very particular set of riffs that maintains this signature melodeath sound. The energy is sustained on ‘A Truth Worth Lying For‘ which is the ultimate live track as the album flicks up from the gothic ambience with a bit more aggressive oxygen. However, now that we’ve got a glimpse of the cleans, they’re brought back again – and they work oh-so-well in parallel to Stanne’s blackened vocals.
Ok, so you’ve heard ‘Feel What I Believe‘ but how does it sit with the rest of the record? This song still feels like the ultimate Gothenburg fusion with the all-stars from over the years, however it’s absolutely got a fresh flavour to it, and it’s more than that 2022 crisp touch. The single is the perfect intersection of the melodic-and-the-death, it’s a total head-banger. The way The Halo Effect use hooks and contrast between verses and the chorus – it’s everything.
Enter violin on ‘Last of Our Kind‘ with perhaps some inspiration from Imminence, a modern metalcore Swedish band. You think you’ve heard it all until epic orchestral elements are added to this perfect recipe. Forty minutes goes fast when you’re listening to some of the best heavy metal out there. Days of the Lost winds up with closing track with ‘The Most Alone‘ where Stanne really digs deep and channels his most demonic personality vocally. The Engelin/Strömblad delivery combo is once again impeccable and so-ever-noticeable beyond the general aesthetic of this band as a whole.
If the drinking game was ‘take a shot for every mention of melodeath‘ you’d probably need to call an Uber home and call in sick tomorrow, and whilst that recurrent description can get stale, for many fans of the genre, this portmanteau means everything. The Halo Effect have truly revived melodic death metal with Days of the Lost and whether they’ve inspired their current-day In Flames brethren or not, this album will successfully fill a gaping hole in your heavy metal heart.
The Halo Effect – Days of the Lost tracklisting:
2. Days of the Lost
3. The Needless End
5. In Broken Trust
7. A Truth Worth Lying For
8. Feel What I Believe
9. Last of Our Kind
10. The Most Alone