Haliphron – Prey Review

Angry Metal Guy, Inc. is a mystery, wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in a paradox, like the world’s most mystifying turbriskafil. We both overrate and underrate every single record, according to our commentariat, and we are especially harsh and/or ass-kissing on commercially successful bands. But Arch Enemy has been a common enemy for years now. The condemnation of metal’s blandest headliner is practically uniform; the strongest defense on my last review of theirs amounted to a lone meek “Well I didn’t think it was that bad…” But in the interest of science, it behooves us to check on a control group. Another melodic death metal band with experienced members, female growls, and a bit of tinned symphonics. A band that aims for broad appeal, focuses on simple catchy hooks and rousing refrains, and smooths out the wrinkles so it slides down easy. A band, in short, like Haliphron.

To be fair, it’s not like this is a carbon copy of Arch Enemy, nor is it Puritan Gothenburg-style melodeath. For one, the focus is never on the riffs, which goes against page 1 of the Gothenburg manual.1 Instead, all the hooks are based on vocals first and symphonics second. Admittedly, Marloes Voskuil2 has a pretty good scream with a slightly thrashy edge, dipping into outright growls on occasion. The orchestral compositions have the biggest impact on the overall sound, shifting the genre more in the direction of symphonic death metal, and there’s definitely something to be said for the whirling strings on closer “Unidentified Mass.”

Despite the revised approach, though, it is impossible to get away from the Arch Enemy comparisons. The music is intensely vocal-centered; not only do the majority of hooks originate there, but the mix also pushes it forward to the detriment of everything else. Couple that with a very clear enunciation and the lyrics become a lot more difficult to ignore. A shame, because these, too, are cut from the same cloth, which is not a compliment; these ‘I am very badass and totally unique’ affirmations confer nothing but cringe, and are best left to the bathroom mirror. When it comes to timbre, an inexperienced listener would hardly be able to tell Voskuil from White-Gluz by voice alone, perfecting the trifecta of throat triplication.

With the vocals hogging most of the attention, the rest of the music feels undercooked. The orchestral elements add bombast and their share of hooks, but don’t vary enough in intensity or tone; occasional twinkles of piano and bleats of brass liven up the better tracks, but the majority is simply clobbered with the string-stick. There’s little lead guitar, despite having two guitar players on board. Instead, they both get relegated to rhythm duties, with an incidental solo here and there. Add the slick and polished master to that and you get a toothless sound that stands in shrill contrast to the attempted bad-assery from the harsh vocals and extravagant symphonics.

This all sounds harsher than the score below indicates, and that’s because these are talented and experienced musicians who know what they’re doing. The drumming is tight, the compositions polished, the vocals consistent. But it feels artificial, shallow. It is constructed of cliches and tied together by platitudes. There is no sense of identity here, no surprises, nothing inventive, save but a few moments. On “Unidentified Mass,” at last, the strings mix in some interesting arpeggios for one of the more inspired moments of the album. It may not be enough to save Prey, but at least it gives a glimpse of hope that Haliphron may not forever be a third fiddle.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Listenable Records
Websites: facebook.com/haliphronofficialband
Releases Worldwide: March 31st, 2023

Show 2 footnotes

  1. I like to think that the Gothenburg manual looks like an IKEA construction guide, but the little figures are mainly jamming out to Slaughter of the Soul.
  2. Of the now-defunct Izegrim, which was previously condemned by Dr. A. N. Grier for… sounding too much like Arch Enemy. D’oh.
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