Release Date: July 27, 2018
Personnel: Lzzy Hale (vocals, rhythm guitar, piano), Arejay Hale (drums, backup vocals), Joe Hottinger (lead guitar, backup vocals), Josh Smith (bass guitar, backup vocals, piano)
My introduction to Halestorm is discussed here.
Ethan and I have discussed Halestorm really since the release of their second album, The Strange Case Of…¸ and we both agree that Lzzy has carried the band with her large personality and powerful pipes. We’ve felt that the rest of Halestorm pretty much gave Lzzy a beat or catchy tune so she could take over and wow fans with her vocal talent, and for every studio album up to this point, that has been true for the most part. That seems to have changed with Halestorm’s punky thrash album, Vicious.
I’m not quite sure yet if Vicious is my favorite Halestorm album, since I myself have been caught up by the band’s catchy ballads: “Amen”, “I Miss the Misery”, “Mz. Hyde”, “I Am The Fire”, “I Get Off”, and “Love Bites (So Do I).” If you’ve followed us any on the blog, you’ll know that we appreciate technically proficient musicians and their work, but simple and catchy rock ballads are good too! I feel that their ballads have played a large in Halestorm’s commercial success and growing fan base, but the band needed to prove that it was more than that. Maybe Halestorm had a chip on their shoulder when recording and maybe they didn’t, but one thing is for sure: Vicious is the band’s heaviest and most technical album to date.
There’s a lot of heart on Vicious. Many of Lzzy’s personal experiences are expressed on the album – more so than any of the band’s prior work. Vicious felt stripped of any wood, hay, and stubble, and felt like the band was expressing themselves through music…like musical artists should. While listening to the album, I never once felt that Halestorm was trying to cater to any specific group of fans or confine themselves within any one genre of music. They just recorded the album that they wanted to record.
As I listen to Vicious in multiplicity, I grow to like it more and more. First impressions are a big deal to me with music albums, but an album’s ability to reveal something new with each listen is an even bigger deal. Vicious is that kind of album.
Besides the feeling and heart of Lzzy’s vocals, what struck me most on the album was the raw and punk sensibility of the music. There are certainly catchy choruses that require the listener to sing along like: “Killing Ourselves To Live”, “Painkiller”, and the title track “Vicious”, but taking in the album as a whole, I don’t get the same mainstream rock vibes that I did from the band’s 2015 release, Into the Wild Life. Into the Wild Life was fun, but Vicious is stripped of any happiness and just delivers the goods.
(Hottinger, Lzzy Hale, Smith, Arejay Hale)
Image via Blabbermouth
Although Lzzy’s heart is laid bare on Vicious, her “love” songs aren’t much about love, but rather about lust. This is my biggest drawback to the album. Obviously, Halestorm can sing and write about whatever they desire, but songs like “Do Not Disturb”, written about a threesome Lzzy was part of, aren’t exactly the most wholesome songs, even for a rock album. While the band has seemed to find its stride in the studio, the lyrics on some of the songs come up lacking. I know that this isn’t the band’s first song to just focus on lustful themes, but maybe one day Halestorm will mature in the lyrical department to the level of the rest of their talents.
While I wasn’t extremely impressed by all of the album’s lyrics, I was impressed by its tight play and variety. “Black Vultures” serves as the album’s opener, and begins by Lzzy screaming “Black Vultures circling the sky”! It didn’t take long for me to realize that Halestorm was seeking to go dark on the album with “Black Vultures” dealing with the mental strength required to deal with the apocalypse, or the song could just be telling us that Halestorm doesn’t giving a flying leap about what anyone thinks. Either way, it’s a good opener.
“Killing Ourselves to Live” gives us both a rare studio, guitar solo, as well as a catchy chorus. Although the song’s chorus does lend itself to more of a ballad, the solo by Hottinger is a welcome change from Halestorm’s tendency to not shred on studio albums.
“Uncomfortable” sheds some light on why Halestorm even exists, or more accurately, why Lzzy has chosen her profession. She certainly sees herself as a leader or inspiration for women, and gives the listener insight on the “why” she does. Message aside, I feels as though “Uncomfortable’s” plucky beat and guitar riffs give the condensed version of the entire album. If you only listen to one song on Vicious, which I wouldn’t recommend, make it “Uncomfortable.”
“Conflicted” is a fun track for me. Smith and Arejay Hale deliver a good bass/drums combo for the intro that give the band a different sound, which went well with Lzzy’s lower register. Halestorm slows the speed down on “Silence” and “Novacaine”, both which trade in heavy guitar riffs and fast drums for acoustic guitar and soothing vocals. These two songs give a nice change of pace, and play into the band’s desire to sing and play about their life experiences.
So is this Halestorm’s best album to date? In my opinion, no. In my estimation, The Strange Case Of… has too many hits for me to ignore, and anytime I think of Halestorm, I always associate their sound with the sound on The Strange Case Of…However, I do think Vicious is the band’s best album musically, and should send notice to the rest of the rock ‘n roll scene, that they’re not screwing around. Maybe one day Vicious will rise in my ranking above the rest, but in the meantime, I’ll just enjoy the latest Halestorm release, and you should too.
I’m going to give Vicious an 80%.