The Halo Effect – Days of the Lost Review

Longtime readers of the AMG Diaries will know my opinions regarding so-called “supergroups.” All too often these star-studded vanity vehicles promise much and deliver little, generally falling way short of anything truly super. With this jaded but entirely realistic worldview, I approached the debut from The Halo Effect, the project composed of Dark Tranquillity’s Mikael Stanne and four former members of In Flames.1 That lineup makes The Halo Effect a supergroup for Swedish melodeath purposes if nothing else, and on Days of the Lost, they largely stick to what they know best, dropping an album’s worth of material that sits roughly halfway between the members’ main acts. Depending on personal preferences, Days will either sound like the album In Flames should have made after Colony or the release Dark Tranquillity could have followed Atoma with. Either way, there aren’t many surprises, but the talent ensures some degree of interest and impact.

Opening salvo “Shadowminds” is an album highpoint, sitting comfortably in that cold Dark Tranquillity sweet spot and sounding like a bonus track from Atoma or Fiction. Mikael Stanne once again reaffirms his place as the Trve King of Swedish Melodeth with a crushing vocal performance, and Jesper Strömblad (ex-In Flames, ex-Hammerfall) and Niclas Engelin (ex-In Flames, ex-Gardenian) bring all sorts of slick, ear-grabbing riffs and harmonizing to the show, with slight NWoBHM vibes seeping in. The grim, melancholic vibe DT always nails is there and the energy level is just right. The title track is also striking and effective, though the opening lead line feels way too close to that of “Jotun” off Whoracle. It’s almost like the band want to make sure you know of their deep Gothenburg roots and feel the need to rub your face in it to make the point. The song works regardless and makes me long for the early days of In Flames when they weren’t a Hot Topic house band targeting disaffected mall kids.

The breakout star of the show is “Gateways,” where the band finds that near-perfect blend of punchy melodeath and sullen goth metal with delicate prog touches that pay grand dividends. Stanne shines brightly and it’s the kind of song you’re replaying before it ends. The downside to such a killer cut is its tendency to make adjacent numbers pale in comparison, and this occurs with “In Broken Trust,” and “Last of Our Kind.” Neither is bad, but these tracks feel more tepid and lack the same level of slick gravitas. The Projector-esque cleans in the former also feel a bit forced, while the shouty cleans in the latter aren’t great. Ups and downs aside, the 40 minutes of Days of the Lost fly by and the material is such that you never feel too bogged down. It’s a tight little offering with enough nostalgic charm to power you through.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Mikael Stanne’s vocals and he once again delivers the goods here. He’s the cream of the melodeath crop vocal-wise and elevates the material in ways few others could, making even the most generic melodeath moments feel bigger and bolder. Jesper Strömblad was highly influential in creating the Gothenburg sound back in the early 90s and he brings a lot of his unique flair to the party. He and Niclas Engelin ensure that Days is awash with classic-sounding Gothenburg riffs and slick flourishes and the best moments succeed at taking you back to the salad days of the style. Only the occasional writing glitch and unavoidable feeling of genre staleness hold the album back from that next level.

As someone who was quite unhappy watching In Flames slide from melodeath royalty into alt-metal purgatory, The Halo Effect offers a chance to pretend those missteps never happened. Days also partially makes up for the lackluster nature of the last Dark Tranquillity opus. Yes, it’s standard issue melodeath, and yes you’ve heard this many times before, but in this case, it counts for just a little bit more. Not bad for a supergroup, eh? Well worth a loud spin or three.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
Label: Nuclear Blast
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: August 12th, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. Five if you want to count Stanne as an In Flames alum.
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