In Dante’s Inferno, the second circle begins the proper punishment of Hell, a place where “no thing gleams.” It is reserved for those overcome with Lust, where carnal appetites hold sway over reason. In Nine Circles, it’s where we do shorter reviews of new (ish) albums that share a common theme.
Good things come in threes…or is that celebrity deaths? Let’s go with the former, since despite being relatively skeptical of all things mystic and supernatural I don’t want to put out any bad karma and hear that tomorrow there’s a pile up and we lost whoever was on the most recent season of The Celebrity Dating Game. Instead for this edition of Second Circle let’s take a look at the latest from Boris, who this week release their third entry in their Heavy Rocks series, and The Halo Effect, who solve the equation of In Flames + Dark Tranquillity on their debut.
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I don’t think Boris are capable of taking a break. After re-releasing their Tears and 1985 EPs (Tears for the full time in high resolution), not to mention their collaboration with Endon that resulted in the most intense cover of “Painkiller” I’ve ever heard, I would have been happy with a year off from a full album. Hell, I’m enthralled with the ambient noise of W from last year. But that’s not how Boris work, and now I’m contending with their third album called Heavy Rocks in 30 years. Seems once a decade the band just decide to put out a rager of an album, and for the 2022 version they’ve moved away from the solid color scheme for some leopard print. It’s fitting, because from top to bottom this is a relentless, all out rock record that takes everything I love about the band and amps it to 11.
The 1-2 punch of opener “She is burning” and “Cramper” almost feel like one song, seamlessly bending their punk charged attack into each other. “My Name Is Blank” verges into hardcore territory until Wata comes through with a searing solo against the barrage of sound. Skronky sax abounds thanks to guest Kazuya Wakabayashi but the album never fails to maintain its heavy rock roots. I don’t know if the band can get any harder than the second half of “Question 1” which closes the first side, and acts as the divider between the pummeling of the first side and the more experimental (though no less heavy) second side, starting with the from the bowels of hell bass that opens the Sunn O))) influenced “Nosferatu” to the piano-electronic drenched “(not) Last song.” There’s no mistaking when the album is over that you’ve listened to something no one other than Boris can pull off, and that’s a rare thing in this day and age.
At the time I was coming into extreme metal, you couldn’t get away from the New Wave of Swedish Death Metal, and the frothing top of that wave was In Flames and Dark Tranquillity (not to mention Soilwork, who we’ll be talking about in a few weeks). I won’t pretend to be really enamored of the work of either band over the last 10 years or so, so it was with a skeptical ear that I turned to The Halo Effect, a supergroup of sorts featuring former members of In Flames with Mikael Stanne of Dark Tranquillity on vocals. If you’re at all familiar with the groups former output, you won’t be surprised to learn that Days Of The Lost sounds exactly like you would think. Super modern, melodic metal with touches of electronics. In other words, a lot like latter-day In Flames and Dark Tranquillity.
Is that a bad thing, though? Opener “Shadowminds” has pretty much everything you’d want from these guys: great guitar lines, a rousing chorus, keys that don’t overly intrude on the track. Stanne continues to sound great, and the band really digs in on the title track in a way that really brought me back to hearing things like The Jester Race and Damage Done (my entryways to the bands) for the first time. if there’s a critique to be had it’s the production: everything sounds extremely processed and triggered. There is literally no space to breathe between the instruments, and as a result if you’re not listening carefully the album goes by in a rush that leaves little in the way of earworms. “In Broken Trust” though? No way you can escape that opening – it’s a mammoth trampling everything in its path. It’s also the most dynamic of the tracks on Days Of The Lost. Sure it also has clean vocals, but I just can’t get enough of that guitar riff (same with “A Truth Worth Lying For”). Hopefully this is just the start of where The Halo Effect is going, and in the future we can hear a little more organic growth in the sound.
Lord knows modern metal could use it.
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Until next time, keep it heavy…keep it safe.