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HALESTORM – VICIOUS

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Within heavy music, there is a subset of bands whose sound is always reliably familiar. Cherished by
fans and (usually) critics alike, they tread their path with determination and dependability, steadfast
and true. Think AC/DC, or Def Leppard; ZZ Top or Blink-182: like a tin of Ronseal, you know exactly
what you’re going to get – and we love them for it.
Take American hard rockers Halestorm, who have just released their fourth album Vicious: without
even hearing a single word, chord or riff, you just know you’ll hear some powerful, triumphant
vocals, sexy, defiant lyrics, punchy riffs and ‘classic rock given a modern feel’ tunes. It’s been that
way ever since they formed in 1998 (yes, the band really are twenty years old this year) and signed
to Atlantic Records, releasing three full length albums (their self-titled debut in 2009, The Strange
Case Of… in 2012, which earned them a Grammy award for lead single ‘Love Bites’, and 2015’s Into
the Wild Life) as well as three ReAnimate Eps consisting purely of covers. Frontwoman Lzzy Hale has
become something of a legend in that time, with her fiery vocal style and unapologetic lyrics which
deal with sexuality and solidarity in equal measure; she even won the Metal Hammer Golden Gods
‘Dimebag Darrell Shredder of the Year’ for her ferocious guitar playing in 2016.
And so to album number four, the boldly titled Vicious. Recent interviews with Hale have revealed a
struggle to create the album, as she dealt with something of an identity crisis and scrapped a swathe
of tracks before finding a therapeutic catharsis in writing the songs that would eventually make the
album. The result is twelve tracks that deal with overcoming inner demons, but also with being
unapologetically proud of who you are, even if it doesn’t fit with the mainstream narrative. Take
opening number ‘Black Vultures’, which teams defiant lyrics (“I don’t give in, I don’t give up”) with a
gnarly wailing riff and a stomping chorus. ‘Uncomfortable’ follows a similar theme: a blistering blast
of metal-edged hard rock, it is defiance personified with a simple yet devastatingly effective chorus –
and the pre-chorus line “I did it all to break every single preconceived notion” may as well be Hale’s
personal motto.
Sex and sexuality also play a major role in the album, as it has done on their previous releases. A trio
of tracks are presented for your pleasure, beginning with ‘Buzz’, an homage to Joan Jett if ever there
was one, all raunchy riffs and ‘gimme more’ lyrics. Then there’s ‘Do Not Disturb’, a slinky and fun
celebration of female sexuality – and if you’re looking for coy, you won’t find it here. What you will
find is the first guitar solo of the album, and a vibrant, joyous one at that. Finally, there’s ‘Conflicted’,
which sees Hale pondering the Rules (who calls first, when should you see someone again after a
date) as she decides to take charge and get her kicks with her new man. As a group of songs, they
sizzle.
It’s not all fun and games though, with a few tracks delving into the darker side of life. ‘Skulls’, the
bastard son of classic rock and nu-metal, despairs at the state of the world but reiterates the
author’s determination not to succumb like everyone else, while ‘Killing Ourselves to Live’, a
stomper of a number with a proper anthemic chorus, has a rather melancholy feel. There’s also the
rather bitter ballad ‘Heart of Novocaine’, which follows in a similar vein of Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Because
of You’ or even ‘Blood’ by In This Moment by sarcastically thanking an ex for making her heart numb.
In an album packed with potential hits, there are two that stand out (outside of bolshy lead single
‘Uncomfortable’): White Dress is a brash and bold track, filled simultaneously with self-realising
lyrics and an apology of sorts to family and friends (“I’m not the girl in the white dress”). It’s a real
‘rallying cry’ song, broadly similar to ‘Freak Like Me’ and ‘Rock Show’. Then there’s the final track on
the album, the gorgeous ‘The Silence’. A rather simple number, it sees Hale reminiscing about a
previous relationship in a voice so filled with yearning and melancholy that it’s sure to raise
goosebumps on the listener (and maybe even a tear or two). It’s stunning, and a superb way to wrap
the album up.
Halestorm certainly have hit on a winning formula with their songwriting: some tasty licks, fistpumping
drums, impassioned lyrics which hide nothing, and a gloriously powerful vocal performance
that leaves the listener both agog and elated in equal measure. Vicious combines of all that with
crisp production and a bunch of songs that could all potentially become live favourites almost
immediately. Have they reinvented the Halestorm wheel? Hell no – and we wouldn’t want it any
other way.
TRACKLISTING
Black Vultures
Skulls
Uncomfortable
Buzz
Do Not Disturb
Conflicted
Killing Ourselves to Live
Heart of Novocaine
Painkiller
White Dress
Vicious
The Silence
Halestorm are currently on tour, hitting the UK in September. See their Facebook page for dates.
Review by Melanie Brehaut

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