Review Summary: Halestorm are making hard rock fun again.
They’re in a largely stale genre. It took them seven years to land a deal with a major label. Their singer writes lyrics about failed relationships, rock and roll, and sex. They’re one of the more exciting rising rocks bands you’re likely to hear.
Halestorm are a band that’s been waiting to explode for years now, and their high-octane live show and all-world lead singer have finally pushed them to the fore of US hard rock. The band’s primary appeal lies in their not-so-secret weapon by the name of Lzzy Hale, whose Joan Jett-attitude and four-octave focal range ensure that you won’t confuse Halestorm with any other band. Her supporting cast also happens to be excellent, as Joe Hottinger (lead guitar), Josh Smith (bass), and her brother Arejay (drums) show their solid chops and continue to improve with each album.
Lzzy and Arejay’s music collaborations go back to their early teen years, but the band as we know it formed in 2004. The Strange Case Of…
Is Halestorm’s second LP and fifth major release since they signed on with Atlantic records the next year. Composed of twelve songs penned by Lzzy and over a dozen collaborators, the band’s sophomore effort manages to sound more polished and yet harder than their self-titled debut. Opening duo, “Love Bites” and “Mz. Hyde” set an intense pace, showcasing Lzzy’s convincing bravado and effortless range over engaging guitar arrangements. Arejay’s drumming is another highlight, as his playing has an old-school Bonham feel and sounds huge as the backbone of each song. His combination of stomping riffs and dexterous fills complement the songs without sounding too flashy.
“Freak Like Me” is perhaps the most gutsy song on the album, written as an ode to fans who go to great lengths to see their favorite bands perform. The song kicks off with hazy vibrato effects before a huge, distorted riff breaks in. Lzzy’s lyrics tell the story of going to a rock festival, commanding her fellow fans to “get off your ass, it's our time now!” The other three members contribute solid backing vocals during the chorus, an ability especially useful when performing the tunes live. The middle of the album pulls back the throttle, as “Beautiful With You” and “Break In” allow Lzzy’s beautiful piano playing take the lead and “In Your Room” shows her more tender lyric side.
The band’s soft-hard dynamics are better integrated within the songs here than on Halestorm
, which had pieces that were decidedly heavy (“What Were You Expecting”) or power ballads (“Bet You Wish You Had Me Back”). The band is also more willing to experiment with instruments here, as cello, organ, and acoustic arrangements are used tastefully to compliment Lzzy’s dynamic voice and song structures that feel both familiar but surprisingly fresh. Halestorm have a knack for breathing new life into old ideas and writing new material with a classic spirit (tell me the winding riff of “American Boys” doesn’t scream Ritchie Blackmore).
An improvement on both their debut and just about everyone else’s latest radio fodder, The Strange Case Of…
is a breakout effort from a band that’s deserved one for far too long. With a feature on Glee
(yes, that's a good thing) and a Grammy Awards nomination now in their pocket, the sky is the limit for Halestorm as they continue to show that mainstream hard rock has some life left after all.
Love Bites (So Do I)
Freak Like Me