The Black Halos: How The Darkness Doubled
LP | DL
Released 25th November 2022
After far too many years in the wilderness, Vancouver’s finest trailblazing rock’n’roll sons The Black Halos finally return with a new album, How The Darkness Doubled. So strap yourselves in and get ready for a wild octane-fuelled ride from rock’n’roll oblivion to the ultimate state of reincarnation. Ian Corbridge takes a front seat for Louder Than War to be your guide.
The Black Halos were originally formed in Vancouver back in 1994 and there is little doubt that they had the spectre of bands like the Stooges, Dead Boys, New York Dolls and The Clash running heavily through both their sound and attitude. With a whole bunch of finely crafted and angst-ridden tunes quickly building up in their repertoire, they caused an absolute storm on the local live circuit and their reputation started to spread far and wide.
With Billy Hopeless on vocals and the twin guitar attack of Jay Millette and Rich Jones forming the core of the band, with the latter being the principal songwriting force, it seemed like nothing could hold this band back from ultimate domination in the world of rock’n’roll. With two albums behind them, the self-titled debut in 1999 and the seminal second album The Violent Years in 2001, it really felt like The Black Halos could do no wrong.
But then 9/11 changed the rock’n’roll landscape in the USA quite considerably and touring became more difficult as did relationships with their label, leading to an almost inevitable burn out occurring which resulted in Rich leaving the band, being replaced by Adam Becvare. Amidst various other line-up changes the band did release two more great albums in Alive Without Control (2005) and We Are Not Alone (2008) but the subsequent theft of all their touring equipment on tour put the final nail in the bands coffin and sadly they were no more.
Fast forward to around 2016 when Billy reached out to Rich, who was now an integral member of the Michael Monroe band, and the first seeds were sown for what was to come a few years later. The final catalyst for the band’s reformation was Canadian Music Week in 2019 which drew them together and all of sudden things began to click and the band were playing together again. Early the following year, after a hiatus of around 12 years, The Black Halos finally released a new single in Geisterbahn II which proved that they had lost none of their penchant as curators of some of the greatest arms aloft sing-a-long punk anthems over recent years.
In August 2020, the sudden and tragic death of their friend and hardcore punk legend Chi Pig, front man for the legendary punk rock band SNFU, prompted the band to write and release Ain’t No Good Time To Say Goodbye which is a sincere and melancholic anthem for Chi Pig with all the classic hallmark sounds that the Halos consistently deliver. This was the first song to emerge from what is now their first album in 14 years.
The album, How The Darkness Was Doubled was recorded in Toronto and mixed by Dave Draper (The Wildhearts, The Professionals) so the pedigree was clearly there right from the start. Alongside original members Billy, Rich and Jay, they also recruited bassist John Kerns (The Age of Electric) and drummer Danni Action (ACIIDZ). Rich also produced the album alongside Dani Adkins.
As Rich explains further about the background, “Reuniting with Billy and Jay for this new album brought my focus back to writing with a mindset that was pure, uncompromising Halos – as far as I’m concerned, we’ve really achieved it. Having our friends John and Danni on board makes this feel like the strongest line up that we’ve ever had and you can really hear it on this record. Additionally, Billy and I had always planned to call the third album How The Darkness Doubled. So it seemed natural to use that title now, 20 years later, for what I consider to be a spiritual follow-up to The Violent Years.”
You only have to listen to opening song A History Of Violence to realise that this is a massive return to form for the band. It’s a hostile and visceral blast of old school rock’n’roll which really has the spirit and feel of The Violent Years running through it. This sets a marker for where the band are at right now and what follows in the rest of the album.
The infectious melodies within the urban survival of Tenement Kids and the raging hard-core rhythms within another previous single Uncommonwealth merely help to cement the relentless nature of the Halos brand of rock’n’roll. With only three songs gone, we are already in classic album territory. Meanwhile Forget Me Knot reminds us that the Halos are not a one trick pony with its more measured pace allowing the keyboard to shine through alongside 60’s style backing vocal harmonies.
Better Days has a real prophetic feel about it as Billy sings “say goodbye to the good old days, we’ve been through hell and back again, we made our mark, we carved our name, but these are better days” set against the roaring guitars, and that pretty much sums up their story. You Can’t Take Back The Night sets off at a scorching pace in classic Halos style but still has time to feature strong melodies and big sing-a-long chorus lines.
The theme continues through Even Hell Is Looking Down, All Of My Friends Are Like Drugs and Ready To Snap, with Billy’s trademark throaty and abrasive vocals continuing unabated and the punk stylings characterised so effectively in The Violent Years shining as brightly as ever. Frankie Come Home slows the pace only very slightly but with no less spirit and A Positive Note proves a fittingly high energy finale to the album.
How The Darkness Doubled is the definition of punk infused high-energy rock’n’roll and pr…