Kris Barras Band – ‘Halo Effect’

By Katherine Allvey

Life is a highway, and Kris Barras Band are picking up speed along its twists and turns. The MMA fighter-turned-bluesman has taken a nod from tour buddies Black Stone Cherry and gone all in on the southern rock for their fifth outing. According to the frontman, “‘Halo Effect’ still keeps the essence of what Kris Barras Band are; big riffs and even bigger choruses. It’s just that, this time, we’ve turned everything up to 11 and beefed it up!” While this is a cracking album for fans of classic rock, especially of the flavour that Those Damn Crows cook up, this also marks the point at which Kris Barras Band have stopped messing about and gone all in on the kind of tunes they excel at. 

Early single drop and album opener, ‘Hourglass’, reads like a therapy session. “The hands of time would keep me trapped,” worries Barras, making the most of the obvious metaphor with his hurricane of a wail. The vocalist has mentioned a metalcore influence across the album, and this is one of the few tracks where it appears as more than just a shadow lurking in the depths of the production. ‘Unbreakable’, another early drop, is in fact probably the only other song where the spirit of metalcore manifests. It’s a track that treads safe, formulaic themes about standing strong and being tough but is elevated above the average by a grinding laser riff. Barras’ voice is definitely the star throughout the album, but he misses a trick on ‘Unbreakable’ by singing the rage-fuelled lyrics in a surprisingly gentle tone. Similarly, on ‘Secrets’ he sings about being ‘“trapped in my own abyss beneath the ground” in a tone more suited to giving a gentle scolding to a child who’s spilt a glass of Ribena, but when he unleashes the entirety of his howl on top of eighties-tunes riffs, it’s like the clouds open to reveal the full force of the Kris Barras Band’s sound.

It’s the softer, epic numbers which play to Kris Barras Band’s strengths. ‘Savages’ opens with a chant-along intro which seems destined to become the phrase echoed back at them on their next tour, and weaves between technically intricate solos and atmospheric lulls. Drifting effortlessly in the more romantic but equally glacial in speed and scale ‘Landslide’, there’s a prevailing sense that Kris Barras Band are aiming for huge stadiums as they’re already producing songs which operate on a macro level. This shouldn’t come as terribly surprising considering Barras partnered with the same songwriting team who also worked with Halestorm and Shinedown for ‘Halo Effect’, and fans of the Hale siblings will recognise that same intangibly appealing and quotable quality in both bands’ output. A song like ‘Waste Away With Me’ is the perfect example – riff heavy, lines like “I suffocate so you can breathe”, lightning bolt solos and a satisfying bridge made to get the crowd holding up their lighters. The fun effect of making even the mundane somehow seem like a life-altering quest when you play this album on your headphones is an added bonus. 

This is not an ‘edgy’ album. There’s no controversy, or raging against anything. However, ‘Halo Effect’ is a solid statement from one of the newer bands in the ‘raise the rock horns while you fling your hair around’ subgenre that shows there is always room for a well made chunk of Rock. Complex enough to provide comfort and direct enough to be enjoyable without analysis despite cliched lyrics and themes, ’Halo Effect’ occupies a pleasant middle ground which reinforces Kris Barras Band’s place as a strong player in the UK scene. 

KATE ALLVEY

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