Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Album Review: Halestorm Gives Rollercoaster Ride Through Rock History With "ReAniMate 2.0"

Halestorm has been a band that has done nothing but climb the hill of musical success since their first major label release, the live One and Done from 2006.  Perhaps their biggest jolt upwards, however, came after the release of last year's The Strange Case Of..., which garnered the heavy rockers a big chunk of new fans.

The smart thing to do after achieving this level of success would be to feed that new pack of fans with another collection of music before too long and Halestorm did just that with the release of ReAniMate 2.0:  The CoVeRs eP.  The "2.0" is in the title because the band released a similar effort, ReAniMate:  The CoVeRs eP, a couple of years earlier.

A quick look at the track listing suggests that the EP may be full of surprises - many of the song titles don't ring the proverbial bell.  So, how surprising is the musical material on the EP itself?

Well, the surprise factor kicks in immediately as the recording begins with manly, crescendoing chants of "Stabbing and bawling and punching and crawling" in Halestorm's cover of Judas Priest's "Dissident Aggressor."  The band has a fun-loving public persona and one can't help but picture guitarist Joe Hottinger, bassist Josh Smith, and drummer Arejay Hale cracking up laughing in a studio's vocal booth while trying to record such a serious, almost medieval, intro.  But it isn't long before vocalist Lzzy Hale nails a scream that welcomes the listener to a more comfortable, familiar place in this straightforward, slamming rendition of a Priest song that isn't exactly mentioned in the same conversations as "Living After Midnight" or "Breaking The Law," but is equally cool nonetheless.

What's the next logical road to take after killing it with some Judas Priest?  Certainly not Daft Punk, but Halestorm not only take that road, they own it with their cover of the electronic music duo's radio hit, "Get Lucky."  The heavy, muted-guitar riff makes so much sense with the rhythm of the pop song, creating a feeling that the tune was born to be played that way.  If just doing a hard rock version of the song wasn't enough of a twist on the original, Hottinger pushes the envelope a little further with a country-influenced solo that's so deliciously wrong, it's right.  In fact, with his bending of both strings and genres, it may be his most genius guitar solo work to date.  The transformation of this song makes the word "cover" seem less than appropriate to describe it - it is more of a remake.  And a clever one at that!

Halestorm returns to more traditional "cover" territory with AC/DC's "Shoot To Thrill."  By staying true to the original, the performance brings attention to the fact that ReAniMate 2.0 doesn't layer on the production as their high-budget, regular releases do.  It sounds live and...real.  And real is good!

Halestorm sends the listener around another horseshoe curve in this musical rollercoaster ride with their take on "Hell Is For Children" by Pat Benatar.  If you haven't already arrived at this conclusion by listening to the EP thus far, the inclusion of this "oldie" will certainly make you recognize two points of differentiation between this EP and the original ReAniMate:  (1) The new EP is more eclectic in terms of the genres and eras represented, and (2) Halestorm wasn't afraid to pull out some more obscure songs rather than being safe and predictable.

Fleetwood Mac's "Gold Dust Woman" offers yet another pleasant surprise right from the second Lzzy Hale's golden voice enters at 0:16.  She sounds so amazing singing Stevie Nicks' melodies that no one would probably mind if Halestorm did an entire Fleetwood Mac tribute album.  This track is the crown jewel of the EP, although it is closely rivaled by the closing tune, Marilyn Manson's "1996" - the heaviest song that properly ends the EP on a very welcome, monstrously bombastic note.

While nothing compares to the rush of listening to a full-length album of Halestorm's own material, the band has produced an EP that provides the "good rollercoaster experience" - once the ride comes to a stop, you want to stay on and give it another spin.