By Erin Caine
Elm Staff Writer
In 2009, the American rock band Halestorm—a play on the vocalist’s and drummer’s last name Hale—debuted with a strong self-titled effort, introducing us to such hard-hitting and unapologetic tracks such as “I Get Off” and “It’s Not You.” Then, in 2012 it released its sophomore album, “The Strange Case Of…,” which delivered an intensity that not only raised the volume but also the overall musical caliber. One of the lead tracks, “Love Bites (So Do I),” even snagged the Grammy for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance, making Halestorm the first female-fronted band in history to win in this category.
Earlier this year, it dropped its third effort, “Into the Wild Life,” offering listeners a fresh sound that, at times, is mellow and melodic like “Bad Girl’s World” and “What Sober Couldn’t Say,” and sported vocalist Lzzy Hale’s newer influences from country, in tracks “Jump the Gun” and “I Like It Heavy.” In fact, a year before the release of the album, Hale sang on-stage with country singer Eric Church during the 2014 CMT Music Awards. On the subject of the band’s sound, Kory Grow from “Rolling Stone” said, “What makes [“Into the Wild Life”] interesting are the risks Halestorm took this time, especially the country influences seeping into the Nashville studio where they recorded.”
With the newer sounds aside, the rest of the album certainly rises to fans’ expectations: loud, brash, and crammed with guitar solos and the impressive drumming of Hale’s younger brother, Arejay Hale. The first single from the album, “Apocalyptic,” can attest to that, bursting at the seams with brazen lyrics and generous cymbal crashes. While Hale certainly has a foul vocabulary, one can’t deny her bold representation of female sexuality in her lyrical content, a topic often avoided or demonized. Songs such as these are anthemic and infectious, seeming destined for the stage. Unsurprisingly, Halestorm has an incredible on-stage presence with Hale’s ear-splitting pipes and lead guitarist Joe Hottinger’s intricate riffing. “Mayhem,” is certainly a track that incites a mosh pit or two during a live show as Hale growls out the chorus, “A little mayhem never hurt anyone,” as if to urge them on. Still, no Halestorm album is complete without a few heart-wrenching ballads, songs that inspire lighters in the air over devil horns. “Dear Daughter,” a piano-driven and decidedly pop-influenced number, is enjoyable enough but seems too polished, and maudlin, lacking some of the vulnerability and sincerity of previous ballads like “Break In.” The instrumental outro, however, is a pleasant surprise and bleeds nicely into the next track, “New Modern Love,” which is a unique and daring blend of low country slide guitar and R&B percussion. Some speculate the song may be about Hale’s bisexuality, which she announced during a Facebook Q-and-A late 2014. “I’ve got a forbidden love,” she sings, “I’m not giving it up.”
Though I can’t profess to be a country music fan myself, Halestorm’s hard rock twist on that “country sound” renders songs that are brimming with loud, energetic fun. “I Like It Heavy” has a style reminiscent of artists like Church and Trace Adkins, and it boasts accessibility to both the rock and country music crowds alike. This accessibility that may catapult Halestorm into a larger audience in the future, though one hopes the quality and raw energy isn’t sacrificed in the process. The American rock music industry today hasn’t seen many female-fronted acts launched into prominence in the 21st century since 2003’s Evanescence or 2005’s Paramore and Flyleaf, so it will be interesting to see where Halestorm goes in the future.