Halestorm rulez, they said. The band will continue to deliver, they said. And truly, after former premium releases like The Strange Case of… or the more lackluster Into the Wild Life, expectations for anything coming from Lzzy Hale‘s corner were high.
The awfully long waiting time for new material to come out added to the angst that Halestorm could be headed towards loony road. Not to forget the somewhat rosy direction Halestorm took in their last record. Kind of exposing Lzzy‘s soft side at every turn of the road. Would we get some politically correct, soft-bellied bullshit like Train produced lately and continue to produce? Not a thought totally outside of the realm of possibilities. You never know what bug stings these bands all of a sudden.
So, what’s it gonna be?
Well, the soft side definitely is out the door – for sure. Vicious gets you another share of this newish brand of modern, scratchy rock coming slowly to market. To the point that Halestorm‘s swagger still puts bands like Last Bullet and Hitman to shame.
Yet, looking at the 3-minute-max rule of tracks tells me that this is a commercialized record. You know, dumb listeners cannot stand songs that are longer than that. Lest they click away on their streaming service of choice and go for greener pastures. That mainstream thing is one aspect I deplore on Vicious.
The second one is this sense of déjà-vu that installs itself once you start listening. You get these flashbacks to olden times. For instance, suddenly hints of Evanescence appear, Lily Allen peaks around the corner – and then some. And that is really vicious, come to think of it.
It seems as if the folks of Halestorm had a good look at what sounded right in the past, took parts of that, and then tattooed their own sound on top of it. But then again, this is one of their strengths, too. You just can’t beat their knack to slam high octane rock on some mediocre melody. And transform it into something stellar, like a master chef on steroids making a 5-star menu out of bland soup.
Okay, all that is not as terrible as it sounds, now is it?
Well, it all depends on what the band does with recycled material. Will a band really build the same all over again out of a sense of nostalgia? Or will they stamp their own and truly renovated brand on whatever material they fancy? Vicious, built tough. That kind of thing.
Well, Ms. Hale didn’t all of a sudden become a cover hunter, that would be a ludicrous idea. Right off the bat, she wraps herself around whatever theme the track depicts and really keeps pushing away at them guitar strings. And screams away with this nuclear-powered energy of hers. Black Vultures serves as a worthy witness to that in this Court of Rock. And it definitely is a great start to this Halestorm record, yet Skulls really kicks that one out the door. This thing is just exuding power like a friggin’ Saturn V going to the moon.
And I am still laughing. Sex sells, and – as usual – Lzzy Hale knows and exploits that to hell and back. Even if the red-hot lava rock they produce would suffice for glory. Some trve puritan commentators developed a real problem with that. It reduced me to helpless mirth how these people struggled to complain in politically correct terms. Just say nothing negative directly, lest the band could take exception. Hoots!
In truth, you just need to admire the straight talk Halestorm spew out into the open. If anything the intensity, graphic clarity, and heat increased exponentially. Just listen to Do Not Disturb – a track starting out somewhat weak, but then gets on a course of steady progression. Heavy, hot – and just juicy.
Also, it’s just Vicious how the band turned Killing Ourselves to Live that boringly wraps around a refrain from the ’70s into something powerful. A fucking galloping stellar solo in the middle be my witness, amongst other power injections. Or the mid-tempo menace and underlying anger in Heart of Novocaine that brutally comes to the surface with a vengeance.
So, is it still true that Halestorm rulez?
At first, Vicious did not convince me. Too commercial, Taylor Swift in bad girl mood at 250 mph, sirens blazing. That kind of thing. But I stand corrected. Halestorm truly played their enormous talent on this disc. And it shows: Slow-tempo, dime-a-dozen song structure, a-stealing from the mainstream – whatever. Nothing keeps these guys from constructing stellar tracks out of anything they touch. And in a way that at least yours truly keeps on going back to get some more.
The band learned from the misgivings many had with Into the Wild Life and improved on it. Halestorm present us with a 12-track record that has but a few flaws. This is one of the strongest albums this band delivered so far. Nuclear powered, rock hard, and blazing hot.