Interview conducted August 8 2022
Interview published November 26 2022
"Everybody must be allowed to contribute. Nobody
can stand in somebody else's way."
The Halo Effect's first album Days
Of The Lost was out on August 12th. Just a few days before release date
Metal Covenant talked to guitar player Niclas Engelin
about the formation of the band, the album, and coming plans.
interview with vocalist Mikael Stanne and bass
player Peter Iwers was published on August 3rd.
Mikael Stanne - vocals
Peter Iwers - bass
Daniel "Danne" Svensson - drums
Niclas "Nicke" Engelin - guitar
Jesper "Jeppe" Strömblad - studio guitar and occasional
Patrik Jensen - live guitar
Tobbe: The band was founded on your own
initiative, I would say, and in which order did you take the guys in?
Niclas: Well, this has become somewhat of a tall
tale. I mean, I was out seeing Peter and Danne in their brewery. And
we were like, "Let's jam some day, or maybe for a weekend, and
jam and hang out.". But I couldn't find the time at that point,
because I had a lot of stuff to do, and We Sell The Dead was kind of
going to some extent as well. I run into Mikael every now and then,
and there was always a lot of talking about festivals, gigs, and especially
But it was probably on a train from Stockholm
to Gothenburg, where the first seed was planted, which on Mikael and
I started to hang out as well, and after a few beers, like, "Hey!
Shouldn't we just try some riffing and feel the atmosphere?". But
as we arrived at the central station it was like, "Have fun. See
know, what's funny is that this band might have been formed in '91 or
'92 since we were part of the same circle. I mean, Jeppe and I have
known each other since 7th grade and we formed our first band Poltergeist
at the Tyrolen youth center.
We recorded two tracks on a Portastudio and played
in the assembly hall at school in front of everybody. I think we played
Good Golly, Miss Molly, which is a Little Richard song, if I remember
correctly. So, in some way everybody has known everybody along the road,
so we had a meeting, like, "Let's feel this out. It might be fun.".
We got some vibes there and we were like, "Shouldn't
we give Jeppe a call as well? We must at least check out if the magician
wants to tag along.". And he became really happy about this, and
about being part of talking about what we were gonna do.
Because it wasn't obvious, you know, like, "What
are we gonna play? What are we gonna do?". You know, stuff like
that. The first meetings were more about hanging out, laughing and monkeying
around, really. And then, "Well, let's give it a shot and feel
So we met at Peter's place and he had the first
intro to the song Gateways. Well, which later became Gateways, which
I worked further on with a bridge and a chorus and stuff, and then Jeppe
put his magic on everything, with a melody play that is significant
for him to a great extent.
That was the first song that we made together,
you know, and we thought it worked really well. We called it the Kent
song, because the chorus had kind of a Kent vibe. [Kent is a now disbanded
Swedish rock band.] So then we were like, "Let's not overthink
it and let's just do what we do and always have done." and therefore
it comes out pretty natural. I think we completed the first demo in
December 2019, and it was Gateways, Shadowminds and Feel What I Believe.
had so much fun doing that, and so everything just came together naturally
and not forced at all. That was our initial trial and then it was just
an open highway. And then, just being able to be at Crehate Studios,
at Oscar Nilsson's, day and night, you know, like, "Okay. I feel
the vibe. Let's go down, go for it, rehearse, and put it together.".
It was like a stream and everything was just open, like, "Just
fill up the tank of ideas with stuff.".
Tobbe: You have a collaboration with Nuclear
Blast. Well, it's the band's record company. So, why are you with Nuclear
Niclas: Okay. Let me then just continue the story.
So, then we felt like recording another demo. We wanted to keep going.
And that one was finished in the end of January, or in the beginning
of February 2020. We didn't have a band name. We had just gone with
the flow and the joy. And then the pandemic hit, which shut down the
whole world, which led us to being able to work unhindered, as much
as we wanted to.
So we kept it tight, just within the closest
family and the closest friends, so nobody knew about the band. And we
had no deadline, we hadn't signed anything. Nothing, you know. It was
a really nice feeling, yet a little bit sad, because you want to talk
about your band, or what you have been part of starting up. So we just
kept working, recorded more songs, and hung out more, rehearsed, and
put this together.
So, in August 2020, I think, we filmed the video
to Shadowminds, and that was for the demo, and that was what Nuclear
Blast signed on. One song and the video. They were like, "We must
be part of this.". They were very stoked, and that felt really
great. And from that point on we started recording the record.
Tobbe: If I say that you are the band's
main songwriter, what would you say?
Niclas: Well, I guess I'm a motor, who sets things
into motion, like coming up with the framework to songs, coming up with
ideas, and all the time keep things rolling. I think it's so incredibly
fun to create music, you know. Well, just starting something from scratch.
And I'm also still so childishly enthusiastic about music in general.
You know, records, playing guitar and everything. I want to know.
still curious, I would say. Like, "How did this specific band found
out about their specific sound? How did they make that song?".
Geekery, you know. I think this is incredibly fun, and very giving,
and hence I create a lot of music.
But everybody else has done their thing and been
part of the creating as well. Hm, how will I put this? I feel that I'm
about to be profound now. You know, I've been doing this for so long
now that I have obtained my own fingerprints, in a way. Like, found
out my style, and, "This is what I want to play. This style works
So the first meetings that we had, like just
sitting down with everybody, and having coffee, and just laugh and monkey
around, could sometimes be very inspiring. I could just go home, pick
up the guitar, and something just came out, out of that meeting, you
know. And that's what I think is so cool.
So it's not like I put on a record and get inspired,
even if I would subconsciously get that also, but now it's more about
meetings. You know, what I experience and stuff like that. And I think
that's awesome, and that also permeates much of the record too.
Tobbe: It seems like you're open to all
Niclas: Well, I think you have to use your antennae,
and be interested, and think it's fun. It must not be boring, but it
has to be fun, inspiring and in a way curious.
Tobbe: So you're the one that glues it together.
Yet, on coming records different members will maybe come up with other
ideas of how they would like to stitch together an album, which maybe
don't go hand in hand with your ideas, and therefore it might become a
little bit more difficult, right?
Niclas: Well, I don't think so. I don't want
to believe that. Like I said, everybody fills it up with their ideas.
It's not like I wrote the album myself. I really don't want to say so.
You don't do that. We did this together, you know. We could try out
ideas and stuff, and then on the next day Danne comes in, like, "I
have a different drum arrangement. What do you think about this?".
then it sounds awesome, and, "Of course. Go for it!". Everybody
must be allowed to contribute. Nobody can stand in somebody else's way.
I think this has been a contributing factor to why it sounds like it
does too. I know that this comes out boring, but, you know, we play
together, we are a band, and that's how it should be.
Tobbe: I would see you as the most important
one in the band since you glue the parts together. Yet, Jeppe Strömblad
pretty much has a cult following and it's kind of hard to outdo that,
Niclas: Absolutely. He is totally amazing. Of
course he has earned that. No question about it. He's a magician, you
know. I mean, there were moments in the studio where, for instance,
I had some thing and couldn't decide what to do, and, "You hear
something here, right? I feel something like this." and then he
just put a very beautiful melody line on top of it.
And at that point I get a feeling of, "It
sounds like this line has been there the whole time.". He just
picks it up. It's amazing. It's just so beautiful and so handsome, you
know. And there you have a guy who really has fingerprints with his
guitar play, which has this melancholy; this Swedish folk music, mixed
with death metal and obviously heavy riffs. And to sit in that stream
together is great. Something great always comes out of these meetings.
Tobbe: It's pretty funny if we look at some
new band and then at your band, which is actually a new band too. I mean,
what an advantage you can draw in comparison to a new, younger band. You
know, like playing at Wacken at midnight on a big stage and, I mean, what
new band would ever get to do that?
Niclas: Yes, we have reflected on this as well,
like, "This is crazy. We get to do this and that.". Sweden
Rock, Wacken, and during large proportions. We have to pinch ourselves.
I mean, we get to do Download Japan, and we're out with Machine Head
and Amon Amarth during this fall as well. So it's fantastic. I'm very
humble and grateful for this.
Tobbe: The Halo Effect's music differs quite
a bit from Engel and We Sell The Dead, and besides meeting old friends,
what took you so long to get back to a time period that existed, like,
27 years ago?
Niclas: As you say that, let me put it like
this: I think that the last We Sell The Dead album Black Sleep had a
lot of this melancholy and these melodies, you know. That was probably
a starting point for me, as a songwriter.
and Gardenian have been pretty heavy, and more towards death, and maybe
haven't relied so much on melodies. Well, at least not these kinds of
melodies. So I think that the Black Sleep album was important for me
to create, in order to get this result with these guys.
Tobbe: I've heard some people say, or rather
I've seen people write, that The Halo Effect sounds like In Flames with
Stanne on vocals. What's your take on this?
Niclas: Well, I think that this is a summary
of everything that we have done, from when we were taking part of starting
this genre up until now, you know. I mean, the verse riff in A Truth
Worth Lying For is from Sarcazm, my first thrash metal band, which I
was just noodling around, and our producer Oscar thought it was awesome.
I was just practicing a little bit to warm up.
So that riff came into use, you know. And that
demo is from '91. So it's kind of all the way, via Gardenian and Engel,
on my part. Everybody has brought their own parts, and Jesper is the
one he is, so he has brought his parts. And this is what we sound like
Tobbe: To rate your own albums is maybe
something that you don't wanna do as a musician, because the new one often
feels great since it's the current one. But anyway, is Days Of The Lost
pretty much the best record that you've been part of making?
Niclas: Hmm, that's a question musicians get,
like "Which is your greatest moment as a musician? What's the greatest
thing you've experienced?". Well, it might be Wacken, it might
be an arena tour, it even might be club gigs, it might be a show that
you've been part of creating. Engel did a beautiful show at the Lorensberg
theater, with Hellmans Drengar, which is a 50-man choir. I mean, so
grand and just wow!
And you're passionate about what you're doing.
I think it's important to have that motivation, like, "Now we're
doing this." and at that point I wanna do it to a 100 percent.
To do it to 70, 80 or 95 percent isn't relevant to me, because then
I have failed, and then I go home and feel that I could have done that
better. But yes, this is a milestone to me. But so was Black Sleep by
We Sell The Dead as well. It was beautiful to create, with Jonte [Slättung]
and Apollo [Papathanasio].
what's great by creating is to get and give inspired, like a give and
take, like, "I was thinking of this. Have you heard this? Have
you heard that record?". You know, it never ends. And it mustn't
end. If the day comes when you think that they are boring, then just
screw it, take a break, take a breather, and come back in a couple years
if it feels nice again. But I never get enough. I need this. I must
have the discussion.
Some questions that have often popped up in the
studio in the last couple of years, and to which I want the answer to
is, "Why do we record this? Why should I do this?" and my
answer is, "I record this because I have to record this. I love
what I'm doing and I'm deeply involved in this.". Oh, I got very
profound now again. I think it's important to at least question, "Is
this relevant? Why am I doing this?". And then maybe one shouldn't
dig deeper into that, but just leave it be at that point.
Personally I play music because I think it's
so fun. This is just an extension from another association. You know,
I used to play soccer, and that went great. But as I was 15 or 16 I
had to make a choice, and I chose Glenn Tipton, KK Downing, Jake E.
Lee, and Vivian Campbell. At that time it was just pure joy, like when
I was at the youth center. And I have taken that with me.
It has to be on those terms. Don't overthink
stuff, but just use the flow and tell yourself that it will turn out
fine. You know, if you start thinking too much, then it might be like,
"Well, I'm not inspired now. I don't feel it now.". No, it's
best to just put on Dio's The Last In Line or Holy Diver and, like,
"Okay. Done. Let's go.".
Tobbe: Stanne is with Dark Tranquillity,
and you have a couple of other projects too, but the other 3 guys haven't
got anything else that's really productive music-wise. So, what happens
if The Halo Effect goes big? What will happen to the other music related
stuff that you've got?
Niclas: We have been very thorough from the
start. We have talked about stuff like this. We have talked about pretty
much everything. So it's just open your large calendar, make plans,
and be open to suggestions, and to how things might work for one another.
We've been doing things like that so far, and it has been working very
well, so we will keep functioning like that. Calm and easy, and be respectful
to one another.
Tobbe: Peter and Mikael told me that you
guys actually have a bunch of songs for a second record. What might you
tell me about those songs? We're talking about somewhere between 7 and
14 songs, really. They were giving me some different numbers, like at
some point it was 17 songs in total and at another point it was 24.
Niclas: Well, because the album has been done
for so long, and we started this with the first single Shadowminds in
November last year, it's been like, "Hey Jeppe! Do you wanna meet
up in the studio? I'll buy some croissants and put on coffee.",
which has resulted in more songs. I still live in that flow, and as
long as it's inspiring and we go forward I don't think there's a reason
also: an interview
with Mikael Stanne and Peter Iwers a few months earlier