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Halestorm - Into the Wild Life

Halestorm - CD Review
Into the Wild Life





CD Info
Atlantic Records
15 Tracks (Deluxe Version)
English Lyrics

Halestorm, the brother-sister act originally from Red Lion, Pennsylvania have released their third full length album, Into the Wild Life. If there were any doubts about how the band would respond to their Grammy win in the Heavy Rock/Metal category, those doubts have been laid to rest with this CD. This album is a mix of hard rock anthems and softer ballads. Throw in some Jazz, a touch of anger, hard playing instruments, and vocals/lyrics that are sometimes raw emotionally, and you have this album. The listener is taken on a captive journey from the opening song until the last one with songs blending into each other many times, almost like the old concept albums. The pedal is pushed and one can only hold on till the end.

The band, Halestorm, began around 1997 when Lizzy (vocals, guitar, keyboard) and Arjen (drums) were 13 and 10. Lead Guitarist Joe Hottinger joined the band in 2003. After a few minor changes, the band has been solid since 2004 with the addition of Josh Smith on bass guitar, who replaced Roger Hale, their father. In 2005, the band signed with Atlantic Records, and released the EP Once and Done in 2006. Halestorm (2009) was their debut album and in 2011, released a live CD/DVD, Live in Philly. ReAnimate (2011) and Hello, It’s Mz Hyde (2012) were additional EPs. In April, 2012, Halestorm released their second full album; It’s a Strange Case of..., which brings us to their third and newest CD. The band also has the distinction of being the first female-fronted band to be nominated for and to win a Grammy in the Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Category.

The album opens with “Scream,” a definite rock anthem. The opening of the song is a little misleading as it starts with the melodic line done with “ohs” over a driving bass and drum beat. It is with a repetitive chorus of “kicking down your door,” and “what are you waiting for, till they hear you, Scream.” Lizzy’s voice is strong throughout the song and there is a light, softer, short interlude before the final chorus kicks in. The end of the song is the actual introduction to the next song. Softer synthesized keyboards with lightly strummed guitar chords are introduced here. The traditional rock chord progression is played twice before the following song.

“I am the Fire” opens the synthesized keyboard heard in the previous song over a light bass guitar. The vocals are very soft at the beginning and then the flood gates open. There is a crescendo both instrumental and vocal. The full band is playing and Lizzy’s voice has a “scream” tinge to it. After a second verse with the soft keyboard, the rest of the song has a more traditional rock sound with the drums and guitars. This song toward the end stretches her voice and at time it almost sounds like she is exceeding her range. She is able to sustain notes quite well in this song. A unique part is where there is a two phrase duet with her and the bass guitar.

Three songs that are definitely both heavy rock and with explicit lyrics are “Sick Individual,” Gonna Get Mine,” and “I Like It Heavy.” These songs can also be considered anthems as well. I could easily see people leaving a concert singing the choruses to these songs. A nice drum solo introduces “Sick Individual,” before the guitars enter with heavy chords. The vocals and instruments perform the song in unison with staccato notes. The vocal line floats above the heavy instrumentation and there is a short guitar solo before the last verse. The guitars in unison play a very familiar tune over a simple drum rock beat that introduces the lyrics for the next song. “Gonna Get Mine” is the most anthem-like, and there is an angry touch to both the song and vocals. Interestingly, there is quite a bit of unison playing with the guitars. “I Like It Heavy,” opens with guitar playing light chords on the beat with hand claps of different varieties throughout the song. There are some parts where the instruments are lighter, but for the most part, the instruments are traditional heavy rock. Over halfway through the song, Lizzy performs a part a capella almost Gospel-like with a touch of jazz to it which ends the song.

Another song is “Amen” which features a chorus in addition to Lizzy’s vocals. This anthem seems to be a commentary on today’s world. The instruments play a nice under beat and there is a nice guitar solo toward the end of the song. There is a touch of anger in the lyrics and a nice interplay between the soloist and the chorus. The band also created a video for this song. It can be viewed here.

Halestorm shows their musicianship on this album with the many songs that would be considered ballads. Besides showing a softer side, there is a lot of emotion and rawness to the songs and some experimentation into some jazz which is nice. Ballads include “New Modern Love,” “Bad Girls World,” “The Reckoning,” and “What Sober Couldn’t Say.” “New Modern Love,” features a light drum beat and some light keyboards. The guitar has a slightly heavy sound at times and a distorted solo toward the end. Vocals are pretty even keel and not as stressed as some of the other songs. This type of song many times is harder to perform than the strong, screaming type. A soft drum beat and arpeggiated guitar chords play under the vocals in “Bad Girls World.” Lizzy’s voice approaches her upper vocal range at times in this song. Also, there is a chorus that backs her up at times. The lyrics express some rawness with a sadness added. A guitar solo fits in nicely with the lyrics and is tastefully done. Another nice touch to this song is that the instruments compliment the vocals. The end of the song leads into “Gonna Get Mine”. “The Reckoning” opens with light keyboards reminding me of the 70s, like I am in a dream. When the song gets a harder beat, it is still pretty calm. The vocals are soothing and sustained very nicely. Later, the vocals are harsher but still pretty tame. The last of this group of ballads, “What Sober Couldn’t Say,” starts out with an ascending line on the keyboards. The soft drum beat fits in nicely under Lizzy’s voice. There is some nice, light vocal harmony in the verses. This song is also emotional with a touch of realism to it.

Songs from the album which the band made video of include rock songs “Mayhem,” and “Apocalyptic.” These song feature loud vocals and a true rock sound. The video link for “Apocalyptic” is here. An audio version of “Mayhem” is this one. An interesting side note is that the other day in the grocery store of all places, I heard “Mayhem,” which really surprised me. Rounding out the deluxe album only are two other rock songs, “I Jump the Gun” and “Unapologetic.”

Another ballad is my favorite song from the album. In this modern age, where society seems to want to objectify women and even girls, it is nice that present day bands are realizing this and writing about it. The song “Dear Daughter” is my choice because of the message as I believe it is very important for girls to hear. Seeing the effects of society, from bullying and other ways, it is refreshing to see that these issues are being addressed. This song features the piano (keyboard) and vocals, which are emotional and raw. A small chorus backs up Lizzy in the second verse. Only after the second verse does the guitar enter during the interlude before the third verse. I have to give kudos to the band for this song and its message. My only complaint is that the last third of the song is a lead-in to “New Modern Love.” A link to the group’s lyric video is here.

It was exciting to review this album and a change of pace for me. What made this special for me is that I can recall the beginning of Halestorm. I remember seeing and hearing them play around their hometown of Red Lion. This album shows that the band was not resting on the laurels of winning a Grammy. It has a wide range of songs, something for listeners of Hard Rock, Heavy Rock, Jazz, and Metal. There are songs here that are destined to become Anthems and the album also includes Ballads. The band takes the listener on a journey of “The Wild Life,” whether they want to or not. The musicianship and vocals are very good and this is a must for fans of Hard, Heavy Rock or ones looking for something different. For additional information on the band, please check out the following links: