Halo of Shadows - Manifesto
Massacre Records
Melodic Death Metal
10 songs (44:18)
Release year: 2006
Halo of Shadows, Massacre Records
Reviewed by Al

Today’s review kids, is brought to you by geography. As you may well know each country has its own musical specialities and peculiarities and in this vein many countries have become famous for putting out either above par examples or a mind boggling quantity of a particular genre. For example, if you want black metal, Norway’s your best bet. Want watered down indie-pop? The UK has more than enough. Celine Dion meets Bryan Adams over a pop-punk riff!? Head to Canada!

On that note, anyone that knows anything about melodic death metal knows that Finland is indeed where the party is, as since the day Children of Bodom decided to unleash their debut album upon the world the number of acts in the genre hailing from there has increased substantially. Unfortunately, this has resulted in a few too many bands doing a very similar thing, and when that thing is not incredibly interesting to begin with mediocrity rears its ugly head. If I had a penny for every time I heard a band making a contrived attempt to sound like the giants of the genre, failing, then coming off sounding exactly like all their peers who attempted the same thing I’d have enough money to buy a can of beer…or something. (Oh analogy…why hast thou forsaken me!?)

It is with this quantity over quality trepidation that I approached the Finnish quartet Halo of Shadows debut effort. The band has only been around just under a year so I’m afraid there’s nothing I can really offer in background information.

The most immediate thing apparent about the music is the influences. While the band undoubtedly have a solid sound of their own, it’s easy to detect elements of other bands or sections of genres in their sound. Applied to the basic melodic death metal template are elements of symphonic death metal, shades of the more electronic spectrum of black metal and the highly technical and at times chaotic riffing and soloing of a certain aforementioned Finnish act. Of course the most important question is, does it work?

The answer is that instrumentally, yes it does. There is enough variety here to keep the casual listener interested and enough depth to placate the serious aficionado. Almost every track has a very separate and unique tone, some such as Drowned in Ashes and Eyes of Faith, utilise a backdrop of brooding keyboard electronica to create a palpable atmosphere. Others however, such as Burn in Depth and the title track, exhibit chaotic high speed riffing and drumming, fighting the corner of the heavier side of proceedings. There’s some fantastic riffs and solos to be found and while the pace can veer from an almost doom-esque sludge to a breakneck maelstrom, the overall quality remains high throughout.

Where the album loses it’s footing time and time again however is vocally. Lead singer Antti Matilainen sounds at times a little like Dani Filth, all snarling half growled delivery. While this is all fine and good, the vocals, aside from very sparingly going into a half chanting clean style, never really change throughout the album and after the third or fourth track starts up and you hear the almost identical vocal lines to the last track, the songs start to blur together and it gets monotonous. It is this deadpan snarled delivery that keeps the majority of the album from being memorable and I feel if the singer could just throw a bit of variance into the mix it would vastly improve things on the whole.

For a debut from a young band this is a generally good effort. The production is good and the skill and desire are obviously there to do something important and do it well. There is nothing here to make me file them under ‘essential’ but provided the vocalist gains the confidence to throw some variety into the mix and broaden his range and the band as a whole progress their already admirable musical abilities, the sophomore effort may very well create waves.

Killing Songs :
The Force Zero and Eyes of Faith
Al quoted 70 / 100
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