HALESTORM – Into The Wild Life

w98859ykx3rI didn’t like Halestorm when I first heard them. Yes, I heard that front woman Lzzy Hale had one helluva voice and that she had attitude, passion and hunger enough to sell. But the singles that were all over the radio, “Love Bites (So Do I)” and “I Miss The Misery” from their second album The Strange Case Of… (2012) weren’t all that much to write home about for me. Not bad, but nothing that made me wanna check the band out further. Besides, I thought they had too much of a modern radio-rock vibe over them, a style that doesn’t tickle my musical interest at all. The ballad “Here’s To Us”, was ok, I thought, but it was two against one here, so I didn’t have the urge to surrender at all. It would take my fiance, who told me too many times just how good that record was, to finally break my stubbornness. In fact, she played me the bonus track, the ballad “Private Parts”, co-written with James Michael (Sixx A.M.), who also duets with Hale on it, without telling me who it was and since the song is nothing short of fantastic (How on earth did this end up a bonus track??? This is a single, dammit! A HIT single!), I finally gave in when she told me the band in question was Halestorm and lo and behold, I dug the album. In fact, I now find that record bloody damn brilliant and even though the earlier mentioned singles still aren’t my favourites, they sure has grown on me since I gave the band an honest chance. It was not the first time I have had to surrender and admit to being wrong when it comes to music and it probably wasn’t the last time either, but the thing is, I like being wrong and corrected, I like it when people can prove me wrong because I like discovering new music and the more new music I can put my hands on the better. For you who hasn’t heard this little band yet, I can reveal that they are a metal band, albeit a melodic one. It’s heavy metal for sure, but there are big elements of both pop and melodic rock from the late 80’s / early 90’s. Think Slave To The Grind – era Skid Row and you get the idea. Not that they sound the same by any means, but the principle is the same. The foundation is always metal, but there’s a good chance you will get a nice dose of both pop and ballads. And both Halestorm and Skid Row have (had, in Skid Row’s case) a big voiced singer that could roar and scream, yet sing in a very melodic and almost sweet way.

Halestorm’s last album spawned three big hits and therefore they had a great selling album on their hands and as we all have gotten proof of, it’s not easy to follow up a major success. Too many bands have tried to just re-write their big success album, but it have alway failed. White Lion, Quiet Riot, Def Leppard and Whitesnake are all proof of that. So I was curious, not only if Halestorm’s new album would be any good, but also if they would be one of those bands that tries to repeat the formula of their big success record. Well, judging by opener “Scream”, then no. This song shows no signs of a band content with a bit off success. No, sir – this is a heavy, angry metal track, filled with piss and vinegar, but at the same time very rhythmic and catchy. Brilliant. “I Am The Fire” is fierce and attacks with a lethal groove, hooks that kill and a chorus catchier than a STD. “Sick Individual” must be a single at some point. The song has an infectious groove and a chorus that just might be stuck in your brain forever – doubtless a hit to be. Same with “Amen” except for the fact that it already is a hit, at least on rock radio. This is hard rock like they made it in the early 90’s with a striking refrain and a groove perfect for the live gig. “Dear Daughter” is a ballad that breaks the mold, a heartfelt song that, I guess, is written by Lzzy about her mother and the advice and love brought to her in her upbringing. Killer track, even if I should be wrong about the content. The album takes a bit of a halt with “New Modern Love”. It’s a mellow, ballad-like tune with a dance beat and I suspect programmed drums here. Not really my case of beer, I’m afraid, but it’s ok and “Mayhem” sounds just like the title suggests. It’s hard and aggressive and almost a bit too noisy at times. It’s not the best song on this album, not even close, but it kinda works. “Bad Girl’s World” is a straight out pop song with a pop beat. An ok song and I think it’s kinda brave for a metal band to pull a stunt like this. Back to the swinging stuff now. “Gonna Get Mine” is an 80’s pop-metal track with metal undertones with a huge hit feel. I promise, one listen and this chorus will be stuck in your head for a long, long while – yes, this sounds like a single to me. And the hits keep coming – “The Reckoning” is a ballad, still with a nice groove and memorable melody. “Apocalyptic”, single # 2, is another great track that’s about to become a new rock radio hit. It reminds me a lot of Black Stone Cherry, so I guess you really can’t go wrong with that.”What Sober Couldn’t Say” – well, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out what this song is about. It’s a modern sounding radio rock ballad. Good, but a but it doesn’t really stick. The closing track  – if you don’t get your hands on the special edition, that is – is called “I Like It Heavy” and heavy it is – in a rock’n’roll way. Think if Bon Jovi around Keep The Faith (1992) would go metal ‘n’ roll on us. Yes, I mean this in a good way. It’s a great song with a melody that sticks like glue. The song ends with Lzzy Hale doing a great Janis Joplin impersonation a’capella. Very, very cool. What a voice!

Get your hands on the special edition and you’ll get “Jump The Gun”, a pop catchy track in a 60’s way and “Unapologetic”, an eighties uptempo power ballad that comes with some reggae influences in the verses. Both songs are awesome and makes it worth separating some extra green for. Apart from a few small set backs, this is a complete killer of an album and in my book, they have bettered the last album with this one – and then some. And I really like the last album. Gone are most of the modern rock radio vibes that were a bit too evident the last time around. This time, Halestorm – Lzzy Hale on vocals, guitar, Joe Hottinger on lead guitar, Josh Smith on the bass and Lzzy’s brother Arejay Hale on drums – has concentrated more on classic heavy metal mixed with some fine cathiness of the melodic hard rock that had its heyday 1989 – 1992. The production is really good as well. Howard Benson (Black Stone Cherry, Motörhead, Bang Tango, Daughtry) did a good job the last time but has been replaced by one Jay Joyce, a more unexpected choice as he isn’t really a metal producer. His earlier work includes artists like Emmylou Harris, The Wallflowers and Little Big Town – you get the drift, but it worked tremendously well. The sound is big, thick, but always clear and never messy. I also need to point out what an amazing singer Lzzy is. She has everything – a wide range, soul, attitude, passion, roughness, sweetness – and she’s just getting better and better with every release. And yes, she spells her name Lzzy, not Lizzy. This album will probably go down selling shitloads of copies – and you should own one of them yourself. We all should. I already do. Killer stuff.

Jon Wilmenius (8/10)

Tracklist:

01. Scream
02. I Am The Fire
03. Sick Individual
04. Amen
05. Dear Daughter
06. New Modern Love
07. Mayhem
08. Bad Girl’s World
09. Gonna Get Mine
10. The Reckoning
11. Apocalyptic
12. What Sober Couldn’t Say
13. I Like It Heavy

Special Edition Bonus Tracks:

14. Jump The Gun
15. Unapologetic

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