I usually shy away from reviewing the big releases. It’s not because I am some kind of snob that feels like anyone who gets radio play has “sold out”. And it’s not because I don’t listen to mainstream hard rock. In fact, Breaking Benjamin, Shinedown, and Godsmack have all released amazing music in the past few months. You may even see those bands pop up on the Metal Thoughts year-end review lists. The reason I typically don’t review these major releases is that there is a ton of press already and my time is really better spent discovering new artists. It’s more rewarding to pass on something new and heavy and give some attention to bands who are trying to GET to that level.
But every once in awhile, I get stuck on an album and feel the need to share it here. When bands change their approach, it is worth talking about, and Halestorm certainly did that with Vicious. The album, released via Atlantic Records, is a return to the band’s heavy roots. Into the Wild Life was a good album. And the two Reanimate cover albums they have released since The Strange Case Of… are a lot of fun. But Halestorm was exploring other sounds, experimenting with elements of pop, country, and blues.
Vicious Is a return to their roots. It is heavy and intense at moments, maybe more so than the band has been in the past. There are two acoustic tracks “Heart of Novicane” and “The Silence” that showcase Lzzy Hale’s amazing voice. But they do it without the departure from heavy music. If anything, “The Silence” sounds like an acoustic version of a 70s hard rock song.
But the selling point of this record is certainly in the return to heavy form. Hale may be the best female vocalist in any genre of music, but she is at her best when she is grinding it out with raspy growls and a heavy backdrop. The lead single “Uncomfortable” is an excellent example. It showcases the vocals in a raw, grungy manner which is what brought the band to notoriety in the first place. Another example of excellent vocal work is “White Dress”. This is the deepest song on the album- it is a catchy song that is on the heavier side. It is a song written about conformity and doing what you need to do to be true to yourself. It showcases Hale’s vocals in harmony over a cool drum and bass line for the verse and transitions to a very catchy chorus line. It certainly will be a single and is a powerful track.
The heaviest song on the album is “Painkiller”. It has a very driving bass and guitar line that pushes forward in a heavy manner with really cool uses of silence in the transitions. And of course, any Halestorm album is incomplete without a song about sex- “Do Not Disturb” fills that role with a solid, bass driven riff and a really cool use of backing vocals almost as a duet.
My favorite track on the album, “Killing Ourselves to Live”, is another great example of a just heavy, in your face anthem that showcases amazing, raspy vocals in a powerful, but catchy way. This song may be destined to be the standout from this album due to the chorus that comes out of left field with a full, stripped down sound and vocals that grab you and don’t let go.
Vicious is a welcome return to the heavy side for Halestorm. They were able to go back to the things that made them great, the heavy driving riffs and edgy, meaningful lyrics and still showcase Hale’s talent in a big way. This album feels like a turning point for a band that seemed like they were on a path that led them away from the heavy side of rock. And I couldn’t be more excited about it!
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