Review: Kris Barras Band – ‘Halo Effect’

Coming soon to an Enormo-Dome near you, Shinedown with special guests: Kris Barras Band. A statement that until recently might have sounded a bit of an odd mix. Given the limitations of what the genre brings to the table, had Barras kept on the Blues-Rock path eventually he would have come back around on himself.

Without wishing to sound dismissive of an entire genre, there are only so many times that a Blues artist can wake up one morning and find that their baby has left them. Only so many times they can take themself down to the river to wash their sins away. Only so many notes that they can play without repeating themself. Younger artists evolve. And like some species of sharks, they need to keep pushing themself forward to survive. Exactly what Barras has done with his new album ‘Halo Effect’ (his first for new label Earache Records), and in doing so, has created his strongest album thus far and the first with a truly international feel.

The ironically-titled  ‘Fear Of Letting Go’ is the perfect example of Kris Barras Band 2024-style; with huge hooks, uplifting melodies, and electronic flourishes not sounding a million miles away from a Metalcore banger – if the track was in the hands of a Metalcore outfit, it’s easy to imagine where the harsh vocalist would come in with their growls – that rattles around the psyche for days on end after it fades out. Kris Barras with electronics? Mentions of Metalcore? Yep. Get used to it. As the man himself states on ‘Apocalypse’, another banger packed with vibrant, fresh, modern sounds: “I was born to antagonise”.

Co-produced by Kris Barras with long-term collaborator and perhaps THE go-to UK producer in modern Rock, Josiah J. Manning (one of those infuriating guys who can multitask and master any instrument that he picks up), ‘Halo Effect’ sounds massive. Sit Tom Cruise down for a moment (if such a thing is possible) and play him album-opener ‘Hourglass’ and within a few short seconds, the diminutive one has found the lead track for the forthcoming last-ever Mission Impossible movie. Smart, sharp, aggressive riffs, odd time changes (some musical parts of the album stray into progressive territory), and a vast, epic feel give the opener a cinematic sense of scale.

‘Unbreakable’ was the lead single from the album for a reason: it is bloody HUGE! Digby Pearson and Tim Bailey at Earache Records have already sent this one to every US Modern Rock Radio station, yeah? “Modern Rock” is such a divisive and all-encompassing title especially when acts as diverse as Imagine Dragons, Bombay Bicycle Club, and Tame Impala are often referred to as “Modern Rock”, but if the reason that the term was coined was to stop bands being called “Classic Rock” then it makes sense. Either way, this is modern and as far away from meat-and-two-veg as it can be. After ‘With You’ (which at times sparks slight memories of Pearl Jam’s ‘Rearviewmirror’, as well as some packing an experimental punch here and there) another single, ‘Savages’, lands, and the flights to the US for a late-afternoon slot at Rocklahoma Festival are booked. With this sound, their accents, and good looks, Kris Barras Band would return home with a few thousand new fans tucked under their collective arms.

What of Barras’ guitar-playing? After all, that’s what first brought him to attention. When artists go with a more modern sound, the result is often that the guitars are turned down in favour of a more commercial sheen (looking at you here, Chris Daughtry). Not the case with ‘Halo Effect’. Barras is still in great form (‘Waste Away With Me’ is a particular highlight), and although it is his vocals that have gotten stronger, his six-string prowess is still very much evident and in-your-face. Even on a more commercial track such as ‘Fall To Fly’, KBB (Josiah J. Manning on guitar, Billy Hammett on drums – his Max Weinberg-like drum fills help make ‘Secrets’ one of the highlights of the album – and Frazer Kerslake on bass) still retain enough bite (and guitar solos) to get the heads bobbing and give the necks a proper workout. Although the album sleeve and marquees will bear the name of Kris Barras, this is very much a band in the traditional meaning of the word.

Bold, ballsy, and fresher than sticking the bedding out on the washing line for the first time in Spring, ‘Halo Effect’ is the sound of an artist refusing to stand still and rest on their laurels, with the result being some truly memorable songs (‘Secrets’ is one of the strongest songs that Barras has put his name to – both as Kris Barras Band and with Supersonic Blues Machine).

Review – Dave

All live images – Rob Wilkins

‘Halo Effect’ is available April 12th, pre-order at earache.com/krisbarrasband, including colour vinyl (including a signed white & black splatter edition), signed CD, cassette, and on digital platforms.

Press the flesh with Kris and the band and get that album signed at one of the following in-store dates:

Fri 12th Apr – Vinilo, SOUTHAMPTON

Sat 13th Apr – HMV The Vault, BIRMINGHAM

Sun 14th Apr – Wax and Beans, BURY

Mon 15th Apr – The Jacaranda, LIVERPOOL

Tues 16th Apr – Assai, EDINBURGH

Wed 17th Apr – Assai, GLASGOW

Thu 18th Apr – Beyond Vinyl, NEWCASTLE

Sun 21st Apr – The Cavern, EXETER

Mon 22nd Apr – Banquet Records @ The Fighting Cocks, KINGSTON

Tue 23rd Apr – Rough Trade, NOTTINGHAM

Wed 24th Apr – Rough Trade East, LONDON

Thu 25th Apr – Truck Music, OXFORD *

Thu 25th Apr – Rough Trade, BRISTOL *

Fri 26th Apr – Derricks Music, SWANSEA *

Fri 26th Apr – HMV, CARDIFF *

Tour dates are on sale here:

Fri 12th Apr – SOUTHAMPTON Engine Rooms

Sat 13th Apr – WOLVERHAMPTON KK’S Steel Mill

Sun14th Apr – MANCHESTER Academy

Wed 17th Apr – GLASGOW The Garage

Thu 18th Apr – NEWCASTLE Boiler Shop

Fri 19th Apr – NOTTINGHAM Rock City

Sat 20th Apr – LONDON Islington Assembly Hall

KRIS BARRAS BAND also headline the historic Chepstow Castle on August 15, 2024, with support from Stone Broken, The Hot Damn!, and Dan Byrne. Get tickets here.

 

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