Listen without prejudice… When Van Halst was described to me as, “female fronted goth rock metallers”, it did not fill me with much enthusiasm. I imagined vocals that were ethereal rather than earthy and (if you’ll pardon the expression) girly rather than gutsy. Mea culpa. I could not have been more wrong.
From the opening track, it is clear that Kami Van Halst has a belter of a voice. Her vocals are powerful enough to hold their own even when the band is in full metal mode (and the band can go properly full metal) but she can also deliver a ballad with a gentle intensity. And she can scream! I hope, however, that she is careful with the screaming; it would be a great pity to wreck such a fantastic voice with too much growly screaming. With that unsolicited (and probably unwelcome) piece of advice out the way, what can you look forward to hearing on this album?
In what I assume is a deliberate joke, the album starts at “The End” which in this case, is a very good place to start. The track has a quiet beginning with some low key sound effects including the distant rumble of thunder. Then a drum like a heartbeat, fast, rhythmic guitars that seems to be coming from the distance, then silence… briefly… before the guitars come crashing back in at full volume along with stupidly fast drumming. (And I mean “stupidly fast” in a good way.) One of my favourites and a superb opening to the album.
The second track, “Save Me” starts with a throat ripping roar (look after your voice!) and offers a vicious critique of religion… or at least the version of tele-evangelist type religion that preaches love but seems to practice intolerance. Another great track. Check out the official video at the end of this review.
So many good tracks on this album but I’ll mention just three more.
As a teenage rock fan in the late 70s, it seemed that casual sexism was not just common in rock but, arguably, considered normal. The song “Questions” (a song about rape), at one level, shows how far we’ve come, but at another level, is a sad incitement of where we are. A song with a social conscious. There are spoken interjections from the rapists and commentators that I hope are fictitious but I fear may be from a real case. A powerful song both lyrically and sonically.
“Put Him Down” has a blues feel to it. A seriously heavy blues feel. This is an outstandingly good track with some seriously good guitar solos. The song appears to detail a reaction to domestic abuse where the woman had to put the abuser down …six feet down! For me, this is the stand out track from an album of great tracks. Brilliant! Love this track.
The album doesn’t finish with a track called “Start”, which would have amused me, but instead closes with a beautiful, piano driven track titled “Perfect Storm”. If this song doesn’t convince you about how good Kami is as a vocalist, nothing will.
A stunningly good debut album with interesting cover art: a reflection of a girl is shown, but it is a fractured and broken reflection. (Because she has been fractured by society?) It looks like a reflection in water but the image is rotated 90 degrees so it is ambiguous. Is the girl above the water about to fall in or beneath the surface? And if she is beneath the surface, is she sinking deeper, or is there a suggestion of hope; is she is about to break the surface? The cover, like the music and lyrics, is thought provoking and rewards careful attention.
The band line up on the album is:
Lead Vocal – Kami Van Halst
Drums – Brett Seaton
Guitars – Scott Greene
Bass – Steve Vincent
(The live band, and video I assume, adds Strathon J. Bajowsky on guitar.)
Finally, another piece of unsolicited (and equally unwanted) piece of advice: go easy on the guy-liner chaps, you look like demented pandas. (Although, make-up advice from a fat, baldy, fifty year old! What do I know?)
The video for “Save Me” (see below) show the band is as powerful and full of energy as the album. I would very much like to see them live. I hope you are coming to the UK, specifically Glasgow, sometime soon.
Van Halst – World Of Make Believe will be released on 4 March 2016.