HALESTORM – Vicious

Finally a new album by Halestorm! I was a late bloomer when it comes to Halestorm but I finally got caught in 2015, a few months after their second album The Strange Case Of… was released. Halestorm were formed as early as 1997 by then teenage siblings Elisabeth “Lzzy” Hale (lead vocals, guitar) and Arejay Hale (drums) who recruited guitarist Joe Hottinger and bassist Josh Smith. It would take them until 2005 to sign a record contract with Atlantic Records and in 2006 they released their debut E.P. One And Done, now out of print. It would take the band three more years to release their self-titled debut album, an album that didn’t exactly made the band superstars. It was first with the band’s second release that breakthrough would show up. With songs like “Love Bites”, ” I Miss The Misery” and “Here’s To Us”, the band gained lots and lots of airplay on Rock radio and the band took off like a rocket.

With a hit record in their back pockets, the band was under pressure to come up with the goods for the second time around and in 2015 it was time for the band to strengthen their following with a new album. Into The Wild Life may not have spawned as many and big hits as its predecessor but in my book, the album was a stronger and more even outfit – and it has grown on me enormously since the release. I also got to see the band live at Sweden Rock Festival in 2016 and it’s pretty safe to say that they blew me away completely – what a brilliant live act. With three previous albums in their catalogue, Halestorm are not a new band anymore. In 2018 Halestorm is a well-oiled machine and since they now have been together for 14 years, they’re almost veterans and as such a new album release comes with a great deal of expectations.

The band sets the record straight immediately with opener “Black Vultures”. The tune starts out heavy and aggressive with a ferocious roar from Hale. The verses soften the song somewhat but as soon as the immediate and catchy refrain kicks off, we’re in for a tough and bouncy Metal treat. It’s an in-your-face rocker about never giving in or backing down. The album couldn’t have had a better opener – a real killer! The heavy and ballsy “Skulls” grooves like crazy but it also spotlights a slightly modern Metal touch. The fat riffing is like a punch in the gut and the refrain grabs a hold after one listen. Very, very good. Leading single “Uncomfortable” is fast, rough and heavy in classic Halestorm style. The chorus slows this blaster down some, getting a bit more groove oriented. At first I didn’t think that much of the song but it’s a grower and I do like it. A weird choice for a first single though.

The very groove laden “Buzz” is a raunchy hard-rocker that brings on a good party mode. It’s not a far cry from the last album’s “I Like It Heavy” and the live feel is all over the track. It also contains an instant chorus that hits home right on the spot. Good tune! “Do Not Disturb” comes with some very groove-oriented, almost funky verses. The sleazy rhythm goes hand in hand with the naughty and somewhat dirty lyrics – yes it’s about sex, folks – but it also contains a good, meaty kick and a refrain that holds every hook in the world. A damn catchy tune that clearly is single-material. Awesome! The sexual content continues with “Conflicted”, a tune that’s on the softer side of rock in the acoustically laden verses. The tune heavies up when the chorus kicks in but it still contains a pretty big Pop vibe. Now we all know that Halestorm can pull off a Pop tune any day and this one is no exception. A catchy tune that should be considered as a single as well – very good.

“Killing Ourselves To Live” comes in a mid pace but also with a Metal groove and a slight 80’s feel to it. The 80’s vibe is mostly prominent in the amazingly catchy refrain which is almost ballad-like, a refrain that takes a home run right off the bat. I’ll be very surprised if this one don’t shows up as a single in the future. Great! “Heart Of Novocaine” is a stripped, down-to-earth and slow Rock ballad based on acoustic guitar. Still, it’s a heavy tune where Lzzy Hale pours her heart out vocally. Now, Hale always puts her emotions first when she sings but sometimes even more than others and this is one of those times. The melodies stick right away but make no mistake, there is nothing wimpy or smooth about this tune whatsoever. Awesome! Hard Rock meets Metal in the bouncy, raunchy, noisy and kicking tune “Painkiller”. While it’s heavy and raw, it’s also very melodic and catchy but for some reason the tune leaves me a bit cold. It’s not really bad but it’s the weakest tune so far.

“White Dress” is a rhythmic and punchy stomper that grooves with a roughness and an edge but it also brings on some really strong melodies and a muscular refrain that brings the last album to mind. I also get a distinct live feel which means I’ll probably enjoy this tremendously live, if being played. More single-material, if you ask me. The title track is a hard and raging piece and the attitude is all over the place (“what doesn’t kill me makes me vicious”, “you can call me Miss Malicious”). It’s a powerful belter with a killer main melody, a contagious refrain and Hale’s intense vocals – brilliant. Closing track “The Silence” is a stripped, bluesy and earthy ballad based on acoustic guitar – very vulnerable and heart baring. It’s melancholic yet positive and tender and even though the refrain sticks like glue, there’s nothing cheesy about it what so ever. A magnificent song and a worthy closer.

My first reaction to this record after one listen was a shrug of my shoulder but already after the second spin my mind was at a new place. So no, t’s not as direct as the previous two albums but it grows on you really fast. The production, signed Nick Raskulinecz (Black Star Riders, Alice In Chains, Stone Sour, Deftones, Rush, Evanescence, Ghost, Mastodon, Korn) – a versatile guy to say the least, is heavy and tough. It’s clear that Halestorm has renewed themselves in some ways but on the other hand this album sounds like a Halestorm record all the way. Their love for both Metal and Hard Rock shines through everywhere and when Lzzy Hale sings, you get the feeling that she means every single word – probably because she does. There’s lots of attitude here and the band means business – this is an honest lot that doesn’t take any crap from anyone. Maybe this album is a bit short of plain hits but that doesn’t matter squat because this album is about the music, the songs and not about air play and I love that. In a fair world, Halestorm would be huge because they deserve to be. I sure hope that happens sooner than later. Their best album to date!

8/10

More Halestorm reviews:

Into The Wild Life

Tracklist:

1. Black Vultures
2. Skulls
3. Uncomfortable
4. Buzz
5. Do Not Disturb
6. Conflicted
7. Killing Ourselves To Live
8. Heart of Novocaine
9. Painkiller
10. White Dress
11. Vicious
12. The Silence

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