By Brandon “B-Mac” McCarthy
The first time I heard of Halestorm, I was cruising around on YouTube, checking out the different music videos from the newest bands. I wanted to hear what was new and popular in the world of hard rock. It was there that I discovered Halestorm, listening to their latest single at the time, “Love Bites (But So Do I).” I was taken away by the edgy riffs and the ferocity of Lzzy Hale’s voice. After hearing this tune, I knew that this band was meant for bigger things in the future. What was even cooler was that I got to talk to them on the black carpet of the Loudwire Music Awards. They are looking to put heavy hooks and licks back into rock with their 4th album, Vicious. It is their latest work with Atlantic Records and 1st with legendary rock producer Nick Raskulinecz, who is known for his work with Korn, Trivium, Alice in Chains, and Deftones. Lzzy did say that this album will be heavy, so we shall see.
Diving into this record, Halestorm fires on all 4 cylinders with intense riffs and pulsating beats that make my heart rate go into rapid-fire mode. In their previous effort, Into the Wild, they went into a somewhat experimental phase to grow as musicians. While I did enjoy that album, I personally that Vicious is more vibrant. Lzzy can go into all kinds of moods, from heavy and in-your-face (“Uncomfortable”) to sweet and somber (“Heart of Novocaine”). Her brother, drummer Arejay, racked up some really tasty drum licks that are off the charts. Lead guitarist Joe Hottinger is developing his craft very well and becoming a top-notch axe man. Between him and Lzzy, they both distribute stellar guitar licks. Josh Smith is still a mean driving force on the bass, wailing some insane riffs that are bong rattling. Together, I feel Halestorm have recharged their mojo, and got the creative juices following in a rockin’ direction.
The first track, “Black Vultures,” hits the ears hard with some awesome riffs. Lzzy’s screeching vocals shouts out she is a fighter who will not go down without a fight. This is the best way to start the album. On “Skulls,” the music goes in an alternative metal direction, with Lzzy taking a different approach with her vocals, but fear not, she still brings that “in-your-face” attitude we all love. “Uncomfortable,” Vicious’ lead single, has a jovial melody and swirling hook. The lyrics are stellar; they really mess with my emotions in a good way. Also, during the verses, Lzzy goes into a rap phase, and actually nails it. Reminds me of Blondie’s Deborah Harry when she started rapping in the iconic “Rapture.” Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll fill the airwaves with “The Buzz.” This erotic tale is riddled with raunchy lyrics and an exotic rock beat. Arejay down plays the wildness for something more mid-tempo, but still provides a hard rock beat that makes the song more buzz worthy.
“Do Not Disturb” is one of the more sleazy tunes Halestorm has put together. This is a song that oozes sex and sweat. Hottinger sizzles with an electrified guitar solo that has a 1980s riff influence. Vicious goes in a new direction with “Conflicted,” a song that tackles on drug addiction. Lzzy goes acoustic while spilling her guts out about the struggles of narcotic use. It is one of the more pop songs with a metal feel. Halestorm then jumps right back on the heavy with the power ballad inspired “Killing Ourselves to Kill.” While Hottinger’s solo on “Do Not Disturb” was slick, he hammers down a heavier and swifter one on this song that could rival what Eddie Van Halen came up with in his heyday. Halestorm cools off the rock pistons with the mellow ballad “Heart of Novocaine.” I hear more vulnerability in Lzzy’s singing as she lets us into her world of heartache, and how she is stronger for it. Smith adds in a little bass solo that was somber but sweet.
The engines rev up again with “Painkillers.” They channel their inner Mötley Crüe and go wailing off the walls with this tune about the bliss of addiction. “White Dress” delivers an empowering declaration of embracing yourself and not caring what other people think. Lyrically, this is one of my favorites off the album. Lzzy is standing tall for what she believes, proving why she is an inspiration to young girls across the globe. The title track, “Vicious,” electrifies my will to continue to grow and flourish in life. This rocked out track features a sharp solo performed by Hottinger. We finally come to the end of the ride with the savory tune, “The Silence.” It is interesting to end the record with a ballad, but it does work in this case. Lzzy showcases her prevailing vocals while reminiscing about a past love. I love hearing her sensitive side; it makes her more human and relatable.
Overall, I say Vicious is probably Halestorm’s best album to date. I am not just saying that because I am a fan, but I believe they crafted a masterpiece. They bring back the intensity they are known for, and they have matured in their songwriting. Working with Raskulinecz has brought out the best in them. Lzzy said this record brought their mojo back, and I say it did. This is the Holy Grail of hard rock albums for 2018, and it will bring rock ‘n’ roll joy to both old and new fans. To Halestorm, I salute you. Horns up!!!
Do Not Disturb
Killing Ourselves To Live
Heart Of Novocane
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