[ALBUM REVIEW] Halestorm – Vicious

VICIOUS TRACKLISTING

Black Vultures
Skulls
Uncomfortable
Buzz
Do Not Disturb
Conflicted
Killing Ourselves to Live
Heart of Novocaine
Painkiller
White Dress
Vicious
The Silence

Reviewed by Casper

If the phrase ‘highly anticipated’ could ever be aptly applied to a musical release then surely Viscous from Halestorm would be the perfect subject.  With their swarming global hoard of fans increasing in number with every live appearance and most in the music world ever thankful that sibling angst was expressed in rock music rather than broken Barbies and firmly lodged Lego’s there is a special rejoicing in the hearts heavy rock aficionados with the arrival of this powerhouse collection.  In any case, to those who have gazed on in bewildered awe at Lzzy Hale performing in her sensational signature style, the thought of a young lass at play with a Barbie creates a certain confusion, as does the concept that Arejay Hale was ever at play with anything other than a drum kit, let alone Lego.  Visions of the latter squatting on the drums stool, flying around in mid-air or belting the kit with oversized sticks come rushing to the fore, as does Lzzy punishing her signature Explorer and summoning superhuman screams seldom heard this far north of the hot place.  Cherished memories of her flanked by the brilliant Joe Hottinger leading the ‘Storm’ from guitar and magnificent Josh Smith providing the bass backbone leap forward instantly as the first track Black Vultures is ushered in with a chilling series of quotes from our daughter of darkness escalating like a vulture taking flight and culminating soaring and sensational track launching scream.  Of course, only those who have pre-ordered the album would have authorised access to this particular edition of this mighty opener as the official audio released to YouTube begins a trifle more sedately, albeit still with overwhelming approval from listeners.

It must be firmly stated from the outset of this superb album that the Midas touch of Nick Raskulinecz is at play and that is evident from the very outset.  It seems perfectly natural that after his production work on Reanimate 3.0: The Covers EP that Nick would produce a subsequent album and to me at least, that opportunity lost would have been a tremendous shame.  Nick has the tremendous ability to aurally capture the spirit of a band during a live performance, then toil tirelessly until that same essence is replicated in the studio.  His work with Mastodon, Black Star Riders, 10 Years, Korn, Alice in Chains, and Sleeping With Sirens are just a few that bear the hallmark of his particular style.

It is my hope that Halestorm fans will be thrilled to know that Vicious is no exception to his signature style and whether it be my personal love for this band and familiarity with their work guiding me to a heightened state of excitement, this collection launches me right back to each stage front encounter with this incredible band.

The same chills in my blood as I witness that Lzzy’s scream is no trick of production, nor her guitar skill a product of Pro Tools.  That same thrill that takes your breath away as Joe makes you feel the guitar right through to your soul, or the particular magical style that Arejay provides you stage front when replacing your pulmonary rhythm with his percussive prompts.  The same amazement comes flooding back as the first time you saw Josh bringing the bass to life, the backing vocals to bear and realising what a sensational performer he is in his own right.   All the emotion and every ounce of the thrill that is a Halestorm show is replicated brilliantly on this release.  Many will realise immediately what Halestorm and Nick have managed to achieve and many will not realise until their Halestorm ‘live show cherry’ has been obliterated and they become bona fide Freak like me.  This takes nothing away from the work of Bobby Huff and Jay Joyce on previous releases, nor the extensive and splendid work of Howard Benson over the years, but Vicious takes the music of Halestorm to the perfect next level.   They have bottled the live show and packaged it ready to take home to relive the excitement all over again but with the added thrill of new music and new favorites.   One has visions of Vicious LP’s and CD’s all trembling on the music store racks, bursting with appeal and ready to blast you (and your neighbors presumably) into the next stage of Halestorm evolution and global dominance.   So hold onto your hat, because here comes an astonishing collection of brilliant new tracks from Halestorm, but be warned that it is aptly named.  Nothing this Vicious is for the faint of heart, soul nor sans intestinal fortitude.  Ferocious.

Just like our album opener, Uncomfortable is another early teaser that has enjoyed overwhelming success but nestled right in the middle of these is the astonishing track Skulls, that is guaranteed to have listeners left mouth agape and eyes like frisbees.  This little gem takes you by surprise from the very outset with exclamations of WTF as a single style struggles for dominance,  each note bridges the tracks elements to perfection and astonishingly, from every instrument and monotone never sounded so f*&king appealing.  Holy hell.  The song is an amazing kaleidoscope musical styles and simultaneously a revolving stage bringing each band member to the fore of performance.  Josh is the star of the show on bass throughout but each in turn, like a carousel of clandestine contributors shot into the spotlight, Arejay takes over with the drums, Joe brings the guitar into the light and then the soaring, splendiferous vocal range of Lzzy takes command.  This will have your head spinning in maniacal glee.  But rest assured that there are more hooks than an angler’s headdress and elements of appeal that will have you revisiting highlights of the bands back catalog.  Brilliant.

Buzz is an instant hit with classic rock familiarity entwined in a blissfully unique Halestorm track and for we freaks the globe over, another track littered with opportunities to attempts to replicate Lzzy’s range.   C’mon, stand up.  You know who we are.  Taking the opportunity when alone to sing Halestorm tracks with blood vessels bursting in your forehead and screaming so hard you suck your underwear up the obvious orifice.  A sensational track and I like it.

Do Not Disturb brings Josh back into the spotlight brilliantly before assembling the band in collective brilliance and when all is perfect musically, the lyrical content, the slower pace, and vocal delivery make for as raunchy a tracks as the title may suggest.  Time for some dirty work I guess.

Conflicted follows on from Do Not Disturb brilliantly from a content and delivery perspective, however, it is right about now that you are firmly committed to the belief that Halestorm has bust free of any stylistic constraints.  Whether self-imposed or in response to the ruthless demand of the fan faithful, Halestorm have herein highlighted the pure skill of each band member perfectly and managed to blend new style into their signature sound.  Now that is no simple feat and is seldom achieved at this level of success.  Keeping intact all the elements that make their sound uniquely appealing whilst exploring new styles and sound combinations.  I’m yet to ask the group how they achieved this monumental feat, but I would not be the slightest bit surprised if they just jammed and recorded the results.  These are of course each lovely and very down to earth people, not the slightest bit consumed with their own importance or skill.  They are satisfied with and grateful for the fact that people appreciate their music, but this album firmly establishes what amazing musicians each are and how their collective growth and appeal knows no boundaries.  This is further reflected in the dark side of the album commencing with Killing Ourselves To Live as it rolls forth with malevolent instrumental overtones and the soaring, uplifting delivery of Lzzy.  To hear this track live with be at the top of many a bucket list the world over and little wonder.  A true Halestorm monument of rock brilliance with its tug of war between the light and the dark and an instrumental tussle for hope over anguish all culminating in an unresolved outcome of a sudden finale.  Wow.

Heart Of Novocaine is one that Halestorm could take in any direction from the title alone, but I believe followers will be thrilled to know that this is a Lzzy vocal blinder with little more accompaniment than Joe on acoustic.   Many an anguished heart will attach to this magnificent piece instantaneously and the raw passion and ridiculously brilliant talent of Lzzy Hale will have people, quite literally melting.

But then…oh my god, then…Painkiller lifts you from any residual funk and puts a wicked smile of your face that can only be brought about with such elation as the perfect Halestorm song at the perfect moment.  Brilliant musically, vocally and lyrically.  Point at your favorite two-legged analgesic and….well…you’ll get it. Wow.

White Dress is yet another style shift with previously unexplored elements introduced to the Halestorm sound.  Subtle enhancements, but unmistakable and blended into the bands established style to absolute perfection.   The same can be said of the title track which, very cleverly, takes the band in a new direction but with bridges nestled throughout that allow fans to take the bands hands and be guided to a new dimension of band brilliance.

The Silence is most aptly titled indeed and not merely because of beautiful acoustic accompaniment, not the lyrics alone.  Your eyes will well and the air will be sucked from your lungs until you succumb to the emotive delivery by Lzzy herself and you will feel no shame in allowing the floodgates to open, and the pain we keep at bay each day, to have its moment.  With the strength of Lzzy and her delivery, some healing and hope will result as well.  One knows that Lzzy was not singing about them specifically but somehow she understood, sung exactly the right words, understood and took you there.  Deep breath and what a way to finish this phenomenal collection.  Unmistakeably Halestorm in breaking new ground and establishing a personal bond with the listener.  The excitement and emotion of watching them live but with the ability to relive it over and over.  Creatively a treasure trove of excitement in where Halestorm will take us over the coming years and a rare recording to cherish for years to come, but perhaps most importantly Vicious is unmistakably exciting as it bursts free of rock brilliance being a matter of opinion. Wow Halestorm, just wow.

Pre-Order VICIOUS here