Van Halst have released their first studio album, World of Make Believe. Fronted by Kami Van Halst, her eclectic vocals, along with honest and direct lyrics gives the album a sentimental and intimate vibe. Musically, the diverse styling designs a unique tone and helps accentuate the socially-aware messages in each track. The record has grabbed a lot of attention since its release in early March of 2016 and is a great example of a metal group who wants to influence change through music.
The album starts off with a bang (after some quiet build up); a fast paced, and heavy introduction into, World of Make Believe with the song, The End. An intense track that grips listeners quickly with a catchy chorus involving background chants of “Stand Up!” followed by Kami’s scream. There’s no denying that Kami’s vocals stand out considerably throughout this effort. Her range, ability, and vocal runs she can produce are smooth and best of all, consistent; not showing weakness from one tone to the next. Her screams in the song, Save Me, the single released by the Van Halst in October of 2015 are menacing, and executed well. Kami is able to show a different side to her vocals in track like, Ryan’s Song where her sound is softer, yet very passionate and strong.
The lyrics within World of Make Believe should not be overlooked. The concept of the record is a view from the artists’ point of view, and their perspective of the world’s current events. This includes powerful, heavy-hitting songs targeting issues like discrimination, domestic violence, and sexual assault. Kami doesn’t pull any punches on sexual assault, found in the song, Questions where she calls out society’s lack of understanding on such a powerful, uncomfortable yet important topic.
Multiple inspirations are found throughout the effort and it contains a great deal of variety in sound that showcases the musicians’ talents. Guitarist Scott Greene displays his strength by playing in multiple different stylings, from the chugs and heavier riffs, to more calming acoustic playing. Greene’s technique contributes in a big way for the way each song is heard, and felt. He and drummer Brett Seaton compliment each other and prove to work well together, creating a great musical chemistry. The track, Put Him Down, was the song that stood out to me the most; a groovy bass-line, along with multiple guitar solos throughout the tune, give the empowering song a bluesy vibe that’s gritty and enticing.
World of Make Believe has a much heavier start and after the fourth song on the record–the title track to the album–everything seems to slow down and doesn’t really pick back up in tempo. Though it may not be the heaviest, or fastest album musically, with the strength of Kami’s lyrics and her vocals, the effort doesn’t lose much of its intensity. Van Halst’s lyrical content is inspiring, genuine and truthful, and the group has taken full advantage of their medium to express their messages.
I would have liked to hear more of the heavier songs throughout World of Make Believe, however for a first studio record, it’s really solid, and Van Halst has made a fan out of me.