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Halestorm - Back From The Dead (Album Review)

Monday, 16 May 2022 Written by Simon Ramsay

Imagine, if you will, that someone managed to bottle every last drop of anger, frustration, uncertainty and fear from the last few years. Halestorm have then downed that volatile brew and immediately stormed into the recording studio, making a take-no-prisoners fifth album that, but for a few drunken wobbles, unleashes a barrage of anthemic pop-metal that screams catharsis from every note.

Guitarist-vocalist Lzzy Hale has used the band’s latest effort to resurrect herself after lockdown left perhaps the finest rock singer of her generation confronting latent demons and anxieties that, having dabbled with therapy prior to Covid, finally needed addressing. “This album is the story of me carving myself out of that abyss. It is a journey of navigating mental health, debauchery, survival, redemption, rediscovery, and still maintaining faith in humanity,” said when announcing the LP.

From the title track’s raw aggression and melodic salvation to the emo-brooder Strange Girl, or The Steeple’s rafter-shaking gospel-metal, this kinetic record provides an irrepressible blend of coruscating-but-grooving riffs, stacked-to-the-sky vocals and in-your-face rhythmic thunderclaps.   

In tandem with producer Nick Raskulinecz and co-producer/co-writer Scott Stephens, the band have crafted a densely layered onslaught of febrile, hooky rock that sounds like it was recorded with the belief it might be their last day on earth and nothing should be held back.

Delivering typically dynamic refrains that turn on a dime between radio-ready melodiousness and gutsy battle cries, Lzzy has rarely sounded as savage and compelling as she does on Wicked Ways and the maniacally OTT Psycho Crazy.  

Likewise, the explosive beats from her brother Arejay, who’s always drummed like a live action version of Animal from the Muppets, will make you wonder if he’s grown extra limbs. Joel Hottinger’s solos blaze like an inferno and Josh Smith hurls in funky bass fills amidst some booming, bottom heavy lines. 

Having devoured influences from every era of rock ‘n’ roll’s illustrious past, Lzzy and the boys have skilfully utilised said touchstones to freshen up the band’s trademark attack.  Bombshell’s menacing sludgy verses recall early Alice In Chains, the pugilistic crunch of Brightside mimics Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir and My Redemption mixes industrial guitars with nu-metal attitude as Hale spits out a storm of self-empowered gusto.

But if this record’s first half seems ironclad, part two is a tad permeable. Terrible Things attempts to distil the world’s complex issues into a profound ballad, but it is lyrically trite and the deployment of grandiose orchestration smacks of overcompensation. I Come First, meanwhile, has a cheeky double entendre lyric but its lumpen chorus is strangely po-faced, when a wink-wink refrain would have been felicitous, and closing piano number Raise Your Horns feels too obvious and calculated. 

‘Back From The Dead’ could have benefited from a little sober refinement, but overall it’s a combustible and very listenable vehicle to expel the band’s pandemic woes. Twisting tales of light and dark into soul-cleansing bangers, it’s a record that reminds us, if we can find strength in numbers while treasuring every side of our complex personalities, there’s no internal or external enemies that can’t be stared down and conquered.

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