Monday, April 13, 2015

Halestorm Colors Outside The Lines With "Into The Wild Life"

Halestorm's 2012 release, The Strange Case Of..., was perhaps the most perfect rock album of this millennium.  Not only was it packed with quality songs from the first track to the last (including the deluxe edition), but it also was a commercial and critical success for the band, earning them a Grammy win (2013 Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance for "Love Bites...So Do I") and a graduation from club tour opening act to large theater headliner.

So, in a time when even metal luminaries are declaring that "rock is finally dead," one may expect the band to have the tendency to stick with what has worked in this time when so little has worked for so few.

But Halestorm isn't a band that wants to do what you expect.  It's a band that does whatever the, um, heck it wants.  And that is a major theme behind their latest and polychromatic release, Into The Wild Life.

While the last album kicked off with its most ferociously fast tune - the aforementioned "Love Bites" - the new record begins in a more muted style with the slower and darker, but still awesome, "Scream."  But the red hot emotion that characterized singer Lzzy Hale's performance throughout Strange Case makes a triumphant return on the second track, "I Am The Fire."  That's followed by "Sick Individual," a song that adds a new hue to the Halestorm palette with its undeniable groove and rhythmic vocal hook:  "I'm a sick individual and I'm doing this thing called whatever the [expletive deleted] I want."

The fourth number on the album, "Amen," offers up perhaps the first glimpse of a recurring and most unexpected musical color on the album - pink.  Or perhaps I should spell it "P!nk."  Because the tune sounds like one of those deep cuts on P!nk's albums that make you wish the pixie-cut pop star would let her inner hard rocker out more often.  And "Amen" is not the only track to show this new tint of Halestorm.  The casual listener could be easily forgiven for thinking that "Dear Daughter" and "Bad Girls World" might be new singles from the voice behind "So What" and "Raise Your Glass."

Now, do not interpret this comparison as a bad thing.  We love P!nk here at Helping Hands Rock Reviews.  If there is any pop star that you'd want to convert to the dark side, wouldn't it be P!nk?  Like Lzzy Hale, she has the grit in her voice that could blow the limbs off of veritable Barbie dolls like Katy and Rihanna.

In writing the rest of the album, Halestorm was like the school kid who wanted to use all 64 crayons in the box on her art project.  "New Modern Love" is a tune that is hard to pin to a genre while "Mayhem" gets the listener back in black with its early-Manson-inspired screaming and irreverent song structure.

The album ends with a touch of blue - bluesy hard rock, that is.  Despite its title, "I Like It Heavy" stylistically falls somewhere between faded-denim-clad Skynyrd and post-polka-dot Cinderella.

While rock being dead is debatable, you know it hasn't exactly been healthy if we're even having this conversation.  Why might rock be withering lately?  Perhaps because there hasn't been enough variety, enough contrast, enough color in even the most successful artists' latest releases.  Most recent rock albums play it safe, having maybe 11 homogenous tracks and one that is mildly different.  Maybe if rock is to rise again like the golden sun after the darkest of nights, there needs to be an album to brighten up the place a bit, to offer more than just a few shades of grey.

With Into The Wild Life, Halestorm have provided a prism that casts many colors onto the bland canvas that has been this generation's rock-n-roll.  It's easily the best album of 2015 so far.  And perhaps this latest masterpiece of theirs will serve as a beautifully rainbowesque template that others can follow to put an end to the whole "rock is dead" banter.

 # of Facebook page "Likes" for Halestorm at the time of this writing:  1,098,045.

Helping Hands Rock Reviews prides itself on discovering great artists just before they break.  We record the number of Facebook Likes to watch our favorite artists grow and to track how far we are ahead of the curve.