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Halestorm - Vicious (Album Review)

Friday, 03 August 2018 Written by Simon Ramsay

After somewhat dropping the ball on 2015’s polarizing ‘Into The Wild Life’, Lzzy Hale and band have rediscovered their rock ‘n’ roll mojo on a strong fourth album that, although never in danger of reinventing the wheel, delivers the kind of riff-heavy rock anthems and lighter-waving ballads that should satisfy the majority of Halestorm fans.

In all honesty the band’s previous effort wasn’t quite the clusterfuck some would have you believe. Yes, it leaned towards more of an experimental pop sound, and some of its production choices were questionable, but hearing Halestorm explore different styles was an interesting experience that still produced some fine moments.

The problem was that they also lost track of their core musical identity in the process, with the broader material they’d written lacking many of the band’s strongest traits.

‘Vicious’ has a similar sense of diversity, only this time the signature Halestorm sound is all over sojourns into territory both old and new. The result is a more balanced record full of material that’s richly layered and strikes like a sonic hurricane thanks to the work of Alice In Chains producer Nick Raskulinecz.

Immediately reaffirming their heavy rock credentials, Black Vultures begins with Lzzy’s ascending stentorian roar before pummelling metal riffage, whiplash tempo changes and a gutsy chorus confirm the band are back in business. Uncomfortable is similarly thunderous and dynamic, vomiting out a thrashy guitar motif that recalls early Metallica and rapid-fire verses akin to Queen’s Stone Cold Crazy.

When the band spread their wings they mostly do so while retaining their trademark overdriven guitar backbone and beloved monster hooks. Both Skulls and Buzz have a much funkier swing to their distorted six-string rhythms, but the former delivers a glass shattering, fist-pumping refrain and the latter, which even utilises the old Peter Frampton talk box to enhance its groove, boasts all the crunch and candy of a Joan Jett classic.

Elsewhere, the beautifully reflective melancholy of The Silence - and acoustically restrained Novocaine - are exceptional Halestorm ballads delivered with soulfulness by Hale. Her fabulous voice is always front and centre in the mix, and with good reason, but that’s not to say the rest of the band don’t also shine. Killing Ourselves To Live’s thrilling solo section sees drummer Arejay Hale demonstrate his sizzling chops and Joe Hottinger go full shred on a heroic guitar break.

Any seasoned rock fan will instantly hear all the bits Halestorm appropriate from other artists. Original, they certainly aren’t. But what gives them a unique edge is Lzzy’s refreshingly relatable character. Stamping herself all over songs such as White Dress, the title track and sexually charged Do Not Disturb, she’s in turns empowered, vulnerable, aggressive, loving and compassionate. She often appears to be more like one of her audience than a polished superstar, and such authentic, no-holds-barred complexity is why she remains a such a role model for fans.

When the dust settles, ‘Vicious’ is no match for the band’s sophomore masterpiece ‘The Strange Case Of’, and lacklustre filler like Conflicted and Painkiller definitely shouldn’t have made the cut. But it’s Halestorm back to doing what they do best, and that’s more than enough to give it a big fat thumbs - or rather devil horns - up.

Halestorm Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Wed September 19 2018 - DUBLIN Academy
Thu September 20 2018 - BELFAST Limelight
Sat September 22 2018 - SHEFFIELD O2 Academy Sheffield
Sun September 23 2018 - GLASGOW O2 Academy Glasgow
Mon September 24 2018 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Academy Birmingham
Wed September 26 2018 - MANCHESTER O2 Apollo
Fri September 28 2018 - LONDON O2 Academy Brixton
Sat September 29 2018 - BRISTOL O2 Academy Bristol

Click here to compare & buy Halestorm Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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