Halestorm – The Strange Case of…
During a time when the music industry itself is changing and every band has the opportunity to make a record, it’s easy to become complacent and accept the same old type of music being played over and over on the radio. With the dial stuck on mediocre, it’s about time there are some new bands […]
During a time when the music industry itself is changing and every band has the opportunity to make a record, it’s easy to become complacent and accept the same old type of music being played over and over on the radio. With the dial stuck on mediocre, it’s about time there are some new bands coming up through the ranks to shake things up.
In this respect, not only has Halestorm taken the world “by storm” racking up hundreds of thousands of miles touring, but they have also proven time and time again that they can play with the big boys. According to fans, this band has even been known to upstage headliners on more than one occasion. After all, making an audience filled with hungry, mosh-pit-loving, and practically blood thirsty fans long to hear just one more song from an opening act is no small feat — especially from a female fronted hard rock/metal band. Ironically, many times after Lzzy Hale (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, and piano), brother Arejay Hale (drums, vocals), Joe Hottinger (lead guitar, vocals) and Josh Smith (bass, vocals) wrap up their set, the audience is so blown away that anyone who dares to follow leaves them feeling slightly like a balloon after all the air has been let out. Other bands might try, but the same high the crowd has just experienced usually cannot be topped within the same night.
Still, perhaps a better reason to check out Halestorm’s live show is even though smoke, pyrotechnics, strobe lights, and all others manners of stage flair can be entertaining, this band DOESN’T NEED ANY OF IT! Their music speaks for itself and can stand on its own without any distraction. Stripped down and plugged in, or better yet acoustically, it is clear that Halestorm has earned their chops! In addition, for anyone who has desperately been searching for the type of rock that you can once again believe in — something that is honest, gritty, and raw, then look no further. Not only will this quartet from Red Lion, PA get your blood pumping, they will leave you breathless and panting for more!
Riding high on the popularity of their first studio album, Halestorm (released in 2009 on Atlantic Records and charting #40 on Billboard’s Top 200, #11 on their Top Rock Albums, and #4 on their Top Hard Rock Albums), the band decided to venture back into the studio to work on an EP of cover songs (ReAniMate: The Covers in 2011) and then their second LP, The Strange Case of… beautifully produced by Grammy Award nominee, Howard Benson (Three Days Grace, Puddle of Mudd, Kelly Clarkson), and mixed by Chris Lord-Alge (Green Day, Paramore).
In January of 2012, Halestorm took pity on their anxious fans and released a four track EP called, Hello, It’s Mz Hyde. This was a teaser of their full length album which was scheduled to drop in April. While fans were content for the moment listening to a few songs, excitement and anticipation began to resurface as the release date drew near.
Overall, The Strange Case of… is a deliciously satisfying second album. The dreaded sophomore slump in no way applies to Halestorm as their first single, “Love Bites (So Do I)”, gained immediate terrestrial and satellite radio attention and shot up to #1 on the Active Rock Radio Chart. This was the first time in history that a female fronted rock band was able to achieve this position. Additionally, amongst other charting positions, the record itself hit #15 on Billboard’s Top 200, and #1 on the US Rock Albums Chart.
The Strange Case of… begins with Arejay counting off to “Love Bites (So Do I)”, and in a frenzy the band descends upon the song. Right from the beginning they hit the ground running as the story of a failed relationship is told by a “friend” — ironically another woman who sides with the guy. Once again, sexy siren, Lzzy Hale, delivers vocally. As the self-described slithering viper, poised to spring, Hale promises to “get you by the neck.” And when she does, you won’t want her to let go! After all, what better way is there to get over an ex than to have Lzzy show you “a thousand ways to help you forget about her?”. The band develops a unique sound with accentuated power chords, heavy guitar riffs, and somehow successfully also manages to combine a touch of pop heft. Hottinger further spices things up with almost thrash-like guitar work, while Smith can more than keep up with a strong bass line. And drumming machine, Arejay Hale, whose fists of fury technique is slightly reminiscent of Animal from the Muppets (though Arejay is way hotter) is the driving force behind Halestorm’s style.
“Mz. Hyde” is another up tempo track which starts with a hauntingly unnerving lick before turning a bit industrial, and then finally slipping back into the hard rock style fans have come to know and love. As posted on the band’s website, “Mz. Hyde” is “specifically about the two disparate sides of [Lzzy's] personality,” which she reveals both lyrically and with calculated inflections in her tone. Through this song, listeners are able to get a glimpse of Lzzy being a little naughty and a little nice, powerfully aggressive or a fairy tale dream:
I can be the bitch,
I can play the whore,
Or your fairytale princess who could ask for more?
A touch of wicked,
A pinch of risk-ay,
Good girl gone bad, my poison is your remedy.
Truthfully, this is something that all women can relate to. After all, we have frustrated and puzzled, enamored and angered men ever since the beginning of time. We are complicated creatures with many sides and many different emotions — it’s safe to say that there is a little bit of Mz. Hyde in all of us waiting for the chance to get out.
“I Miss The Misery” is the perfect unhealthy relationship addiction feeding song. It’s not her lover that Lzzy misses, it’s getting off on the drama and the abuse. Only Lzzy can pull off crooning one minute and screaming the next as she emphatically spits:
I miss the bad things,
The way you hate me,
I miss the screaming,
The way that you blame me!
Miss the phone calls,
When its your fault,
I miss the late nights,
Don’t miss you at all!
I like the kick in the face,
And the things you do to me!
I love the way that it hurts!
I don’t miss you, I miss the misery
This song gains momentum as the story of debauchery and masochism unfolds — finally building to a well placed, but short guitar solo from Hottinger.
“Freak Like Me” does for rock and metal what Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” did for pop. But Halestorm’s head banging throwback to the good old days of arena rock contains a harder sound, and a much more mischievous edge. Still, the over all message is the same – be who you are, don’t hide it and don’t apologize for it.
Taking a break from the fast paced rock tunes is “Beautiful With You” a mid-tempo number that no doubt is a glimpse into a softer side of Lzzy Hale. This song is perhaps one of the more poppy tracks on the album with a catchy chorus and strong hook.
“In Your Room” and “Break In” are two more traditional ballads which reveal a beautifully venerable and tender side of Halestorm’s sassy and independent front woman. “Break In” is especially impressive as Lzzy returns to her roots, putting down her axe and taking a seat at the piano. Vocally, there is a noticeable dichotomy between self-controlled restraint and soaring power.
Lyrically these three tracks are a bit of a different departure from the band’s first record, in that relationships don’t always seem to end in hate, heartbreak, or a bottle of poison. It is nice to see that love and hope does indeed burn brightly within the heart of this band.
Kicking the album back into high gear, “Rock Show” speaks directly to the hearts and souls of avid concert goers, and most specifically to Halestorm’s fans. This is easily a fit pumping melodic anthem with memorable and catchy lyrics:
Little girl, there you are
All the lighters looking just like stars
Sing along, feel the sound
Take a ride on the hands of the crowd
And here it comes, the moment when
You know you’ll never be the same again
Power chord, you see the light
You found your place in the world tonight
During a time when so many things are falling apart in the world, and so many people are experiencing hard times in one fashion or another, there is a lot to be said for the power to get an entire audience on the same page. Music can save; it can heal, and sometimes there is no better remedy for what ails a person than a concert and to belong, even for a brief moment in time, to something bigger than yourself.
“Daughters of Darkness” and “You Call Me A Bitch Like It’s A Bad Thing” are both edgy enough to interchangeably be the new theme songs for strong, independent, self-assured women of the 21st century. With each string bend more powerful than the last, percussive guitar playing techniques, integrated with unstoppable feral driven intense guitar solos, and Arejay’s monster fills, Lzzy’s angry vocals are powerful enough to speak for and empower all women.
“American Boys” captures a certain slick and sexy feel as the band diverges into a bit of a more southern rock groove. Lzzy expresses her love for American boys stating, “they are [her] favorite toys”. Guys should consider this a huge compliment coming from this year’s Kerrang Magazine’s “Hottest Female” award winner!
Finally, “Here’s To Us” is a simple rock ballad with a pinch of country tossed in for good measure. In this track, individuals reminisce over a failed relationship with a healed heart. Deciding to “stick around for just one more drink,” they toast to each other, love, and the past.
While some might criticize Halestorm for their somewhat schizophrenic natured second album, the title really does say it all with the reference to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. There is definitely a duality of light and dark, love and hate, reserved and frenzied at play, but it all works. If one really considers the album as something more than a collection of heavy and distorted riffs, hypnotic bass playing, impressive drumming, and fantastic vocals, then he or she would come to understand that this work represents different sides of us all. Do the lyrics always have deeper meanings in every single song? No. But they also don’t have to. Sometimes simple really is best. After all, some of the most memorable rock and roll songs to this day were composed with only one or two chords – nothing too complicated, but still immensely enjoyable. The most important thing is for music to make the listener feel, and Halestorm does that — ALWAYS.
Their music has the ability to affect their listeners in such a way that it can be felt right down to their very cores. Whether it’s a song about love gone wrong, self-revelation, life experiences, fist pumping anthems, or heartfelt ballads this band has the guts, talent, and ability to prove that rock is far from dead. In fact, as they continue to grow and experiment with their sound and musical abilities, Halestorm, single-handedly, just might be able to show everyone once and for all that rock and roll really can save the world.