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Halestorm – Into the Wild Life Review

April 14, 2015 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
8.5
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Halestorm – Into the Wild Life Review  

1. “Scream” (4:01)
2. “I Am the Fire” (3:37)
3. “Sick Individual” (3:27)
4. “Amen” (2:58)
5. “Dear Daughter” (4:46)
6. “New Modern Love” (3:38)
7. “Mayhem” (3:38)
8. “Bad Girls World” (5:08)
9. “Gonna Get Mine” (2:57)
10. “The Reckoning” (3:44)
11. “Apocalyptic” (3:17)
12. “What Sober Couldn’t Say” (3:33)
13. “I Like It Heavy” (4:53)

While rock music in general has been making a sustained comeback over the past few years, it has often seemed like genuine hard rock has been left a bit behind. Hard rock, which for many people is the core of rock music, has been largely eclipsed by indie, emo, folk and many other modern variations on the genre. One of the exceptions to that rule is Halestorm. The Philadelphia-based act scored their breakthrough album with 2012’s The Strange Case Of…, which saw the hard-working band hit the mainstream via hits like “Love Bites,” “I Miss the Misery” and “Here’s To Us,” the latter of which hit that ultimate of pop culture landmarks by being featured on Glee of all things.

With success catapulting the band from small clubs to big venues and co-headlining tours, it would be easy to guess that they were going to stick with what brought them to the table. Instead, Lzzy Hale and company go the road less traveled on their third LP Into the Wild Life. While they don’t completely reinvent their particular wheel, the group does leave the more straight-forward nature of Strange Case behind for a deeper, more interesting but–by and large–no less rocking venture.

For Into the Wild Life the band, in Hale’s own words, “threw everything out the window.” Producer Howard Benson, who worked with the group on both Strange Case and their self-titled debut, is gone in favor of alt-rock and country producer Jay Joyce. That alone gives the album a very different sound, with less slickness and more of a raw energy, but the band also changed up their sound by adding more influences in. On Into the Wild Life you can hear the group progressing into a more varied, dynamic area and that starts with opening track “Scream.” Trading in the thrashy goodness of the previous album’s opener “Love Bites” for a hint of industrial, it’s just slightly less conventional of a rock track but is no worse for it. Joe Hottinger’s staccato guitar and the rapid-fire drum work slides underneath what has always been the band’s most powerful asset in Hale’s voice. It’s not the opener you expect and that sets the stage perfectly for what’s to come.

While most of Into the Wild Life explores new area for the band, they also haven’t forgotten where they come from. Second track “I Am The Fire” sounds closer to what we’ve heard from them before, but in a more musically mature manner. It’s traditional hard rock and lets Hale really cut loose vocally, putting ever more distance between her and everyone else as the best voice in current rock music. Joyce got the band to change up how they record the album, recording their live performances in the studio which allows a track like “Fire” come across more impactful than the polish of their previous work.

“Fire” switches gears right into “Sick Individual,” which starts off with a brief drum solo by Arejay Hale before a Black Sabbath-like doom metal opening riff kicks in. That explodes into a hard-driving number in which Hale gets to let her inner freak out with lyrics like “Well you think that you know/what I am but you don’t/cause I say what you can’t/and I do what you won’t.” Above all, Halestorm understands that whatever direction their sound goes in, their brand of rock needs to have a sense of fun to it and that’s what we get here.

But yeah, those influences. Into the Wild Life travels the breadth of rock, whether it’s the dirty riffs of “Amen,” the country-metal leanings of “New Modern Love” or the ’80s rock sound of “Bad Girls World.” That latter song is perhaps the biggest departure on the album, with a Foreigner vibe that works far better than you would expect. In-between “New Modern Love” and “Bad Girls World,” the band speeds things up with the edgy, punk-flavored “Mayhem.” This song is aggressive rock that leaves it all out there and is sure to be a favorite of the band’s touring set.

But of course, it also wouldn’t be a Halestorm album if they didn’t delve into some pop areas. There’s a bit of that in the “Bad Girls World” sound, but it’s purest in “Dear Daughter.” It’s the most purely pop song of the band’s career to date, even more so than Strange Case’s pop-friendly tracks. And yet it is a better track than those because of the band’s maturation. Hale’s voice loses its grit, something through as powerfully as Pink’s might on a similar track. While that might sound like a slam when talking about a hard rock singer, it isn’t. The lyrics are emotionally resonant, taking inspiration from the support that the Hale siblings got from their parents throughout their life and while it isn’t what you come to an album like this looking for, it’s quite effective.

The back half of the LP is a bit closer to the band’s previous work than the first half. “Gonna Get Mine” is a good, fiery anthem piece while “Apocalyptic,” the first single off the album, sounds like it could have easily come from Strange Case. Everyone gets to cut loose on this sex-themed track about one last roll in the hay for a dysfunctional couple. It’s fun, it’s a little dirty and when Hale sings “I’ll give you one last night so make it twisted,” damn if she doesn’t make it sound like a challenge worth taking up.

Between those songs is one of the best two songs on the album, eclipsed only by “I Am the Fire.” “The Reckoning” has the theatric stylings of the best ’80s rock and one of the better lyrical efforts from the band to date. Halestorm’s lyrics have always been perfectly fine for what they are, but let’s be honest; their acclaim is for their sound, not lyrical wit. “The Reckoning” is a big leap forward in that field, coupled with some heavy riffs and a moody but hard-hitting sound.

If there is a track that suffers by comparison to the rest of the album, it is closing track “I Like It Heavy.” The song isn’t bad by any stretch, but it frankly feels like an outtake that was accidentally left on the LP. The Southern rock feel is undoubtedly fun, but it just doesn’t jive with the rest of the album and provides a jarring closer to an otherwise excellent and surprisingly cohesive LP.

Standout Tracks: “Scream,” “I Am The Fire,” “Sick Individual,” “Mayhem,” “The Reckoning,” “Apocalyptic”

Skippable: “I Like It Heavy”

8.5
The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Halestorm proves to the mainstream with Into the Wild Life what longtime fans already knew: they are far from one-album wonders. The band's third LP take some bold chances by changing up the musical direction and it pays off in dividends. While the album is likely to divide fans who fell in love with the band because of The Strange Case Of..., this is a great rock effort that sees the band progress forward without losing their sense of identity.
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Halestorm, Jeremy Thomas

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