Review Summary: After hibernating for twenty years, the Gothenburg sound triumphantly returns with some of its originators.
Debut albums for new bands are interesting because the band tries to establish their identity and sound. If the band goes on to have a long career, it is often that their sound evolves and can even change from album to album. Enter The Halo Effect. Comprised of friends from Gothenburg Sweden, the quintet is most known for their time in two bands which are pioneers of the melodic death metal genre in In Flames and Dark Tranquillity. While vocalist Mikael Stanne is currently the only member still in one of the bands, all five members were part of the influential Gothenburg sound that tore through the metal world in the 1990s and early 2000s with albums such as The Jester Race, The Gallery, Colony, and Damage Done. Since the release of those albums over 20 years ago, Dark Tranquillity mostly remained to their roots while In Flames (for better or for worse depending on who you ask) dramatically changed styles and sounds far different than their earlier albums. How does the debut album from The Halo Effect stand up to the monumental albums of the Gothenburg scene?
Opener Shadowminds lets us know from the onset that this album is going to sound exactly like Dark Tranquillity. You could place the song on Damage Done or Fiction and it would not sound out of place. It is a strong piece of melodic death metal music that features harmonizing guitars alongside Mikael Stanne’s excellent raspy vocals. Other songs such as The Needless End, Gateways, and Last of Our Kind (which features guest vocals by Trivium vocalist Matt Heafy) also sound unabashedly similar to Dark Tranquillity as well. Nothing groundbreaking, but solid songs.
Additionally, as four of the members were longtime members of In Flames, it is not surprising to see influences from what many call the “golden era” of the band that lasted from The Jester Race to Clayman. For this reviewer, Colony and Clayman are the two greatest melodic death albums of all time. Fortunately, those albums greatly influence some of the sounds and songs of this album. Title track Days of the Lost is not only the best track on the album, but it sounds like the long-lost brother of Embody the Invisible. From the opening guitar pick slide to the dual harmonizing main guitar riff, I felt like it was 2003 and I was playing Tony Hawk’s Underground for the first time again. Guitarists Jesper Strömblad and Niclas Engelin channeled 1999 In Flames for this one. Other standouts such as A Truth Worth Lying For and Fear What I Believe also harken back to the “golden era” of In Flames as well.
Overall, The Halo Effect’s debut album is one nostalgia fest after another. As mentioned earlier, there is nothing groundbreaking on this record, and aside from some parts of The Needless End, the album has a consistent flow as there are no boring sections throughout. Everything a melodic death album needs to be successful and memorable is present on Days of the Lost: strong guttural vocals from one of the best to ever do it, soaring harmonic guitars that compliment each other exceptionally well, and a rhythm section that provides an extra punch which creates a melodic wall of sound. Very few melodic death albums have achieved all three aspects. The Halo Effect’s Days of the Lost achieves them in spades.