One & Done Halestorm - One and Done (Atlantic) 2005

1. It's Not You (3:43)
2. The Hand (3:42)
3. Show Me (4:12)
4. Blue Eyes (4:18)
5. Takes My Life (4:03)

"One and Done" is a five song, live EP. I received this CD in the mail the same day that "Into the Wild Life" also showed up in my mailbox. I gave "Wild Life" a spin and was disappointed by the direction they took, so I popped this CD into the deck instead. What a difference? It almost sounds like two completely different band.

As with every other Helstorm album, this band is all about showcasing their greatest strength, vocalist Lizzy Hale. The EP opens up with a cappella intro, where Lizzy's raspy howl recalls Janis Joplin. Form there the band jumps into some down-tuned, groove style riffs. This is pretty much the formula of this EP, Halestorm 2005 sounding like a product of the late 90's. However, unlike many of the "nu-metal" bands from the time Halestorm offers up some tasty guitar solos as well; guitarist Joe Hottinger offering some solid licks on “It’s Not You” and “Takes My Life.”

Probably the biggest "strength" of this EP is that it is truly live, warts and all. To me it sounds like the band didn't go back and try to fix the rubs or polish up a rough vocal performance. In fact what I have read is that there are no overdubs at all on this EP. Hale's voice isn't perfect, but it doesn't have to be. It's rock and roll, not pop-crap.

Halestorm Halestorm (Atlantic) 2009

1.   It's Not You (2:54)
2.   I Get Off (3:03)
3.   Bet U Wish U Had Me Back (3:43)
4.   Innocence (3:15)
5.   Familiar Taste of Poison (4:04)
6.   I'm Not an Angel (3:14)
7.   What Were You Expecting (3:34)
8.   Love/Hate Heartbreak (3:18)
9.   Better Sorry Than Safe (3:12)
10. Dirty Work (3:16)
11. Nothing to Do With Love (3:30)

Halestorm formed nearly twelve years before this, their first full-length, major-label release. Halestorm are a mix of styles from the hard-driving modern rock of "It's Not You" and "Innocence" to the modern, muted, chord-based riffs of "I Get Off" to the pure pop of a song like "Bet U Wish U Had Me Back". In fact,"Bet U Wish U Had Me Back," sounds like a slightly louder Kelly Clarkson. If this song wasn't used for one of those Disney teen drama series, it should be. For the most part, however, Halestorm recalls bands like Shinedown and Nickelback. They also have some similarities to Evanescence, though Halestorm never descend into psuedo-goth rock. "I'm Not An Angel" particularly reminds me of the Nickelback-style radio rock while "Innocence" wouldn't be out of place on a Disturbed CD. The closest Halestom come to heavy metal is "Dirty Work", which in itself isn't really metal, but is a hard driving, riff-based song. The whole thing is tied together by the powerhouse vocals of Lzzy Hale. (No, it's not a typo, there is no i.) Hale has a fantastic voice that would do well on one of those (terrible) television singing competitions. However, unlike many of  the cookie-cutter, country/pop-star wannabe's on American Idol, Lzzy sometimes adds some grit and edge to her voice when needed. However, on a song like "Love/Hate Heartbreak", she can sing as sweet as an angel. She is definitely the star of the show and the band's songs are build around her passionate vocals.
Lzzy Hale

Silver Step Child Halestorm - The Strange Case of … (Atlantic Records) 2012

1.   Love Bites [So Do I] (3:11)
2.    Mz. Hyde (3:22)
3.   I Miss The Misery  (3:04)
4.   Freak Like Me (3:38)
5.   Beautiful With You (3:16)
6.   In Your Room (2:47)
7.   Break In   (4:45)
8.   Rock Show (3:19)
9.   Daughters Of Darkness (3:55)
10. You Call Me A Bitch Like It's A Bad Thing (3:12)
11. American Boys (3:28)
12. Here's To Us        (2:58)

A band like Halestorm is generally outside of my musical tastes. I really had to stretch myself and really listen intently to begin even remotely enjoying it. Though Halestorm seem to be getting the 'metal' label associated with them, I'd hardly call this metal. Some are labeling them modern pop metal. However, I don't really hear any similarities to pop metal. The major traits such as those massive power chords, the staccato guitar riffs and blistering guitar solos just aren't present here. Rather, the guitar playing tends to be those strummed, barred chords that everyone from Blink 182 to Greenday to Nickelback are using and there really aren't a whole lot of guitar solos to speak of. As a matter of fact, after a couple listens I started associating the Haltestorm's songs with Avril Lavigne and even Lindsay Lohan's garage band from the movie Freaky Friday. Any remember the song "Take Me Away" from that movie, in which Lohan is the ace lead guitarist who nearly misses the bands big gig at the House of Blues? Well that sort of modern pop rock is exactly what Halestorm is doing.

After a few listens I began to really appreciate and enjoy some of the songs, especially the first four tracks. "Love Bites", "Mz Hyde", "I Miss the Misery" and "Freak Like Me" are all biting hard rockers with infectious hooks and fantastic vocals. ("Mz. Hyde" in particular is a fairly heavy rocker that could have been a Lordi song.) Vocalist Lzzy Hale is definitely the star of the show. Her voice on these harder rocking songs is fantastic. On these heavier songs she sings with some aggression and grit, but also has this beautiful and sexy voice. "Daughters of Darkness" has a ton of rock and roll vibe. The opening vocals, "naaaah, nah, nah, nah, nah, naaaah, nah, nah, nah" are edgy and remind me of rock and roll's queen-bee Joan Jett.

"The Strange Case of …" is Halestorm’s second full-length album. The meaning of the title, a reference to Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, is apparent in both the artwork, lyrics and the music. The reversible cover is either black or white. This is sort of how the music is as well. The music music ranges from gutsy hard rock tracks to tender piano ballads. It's not really all the odd that a hard rock band does ballads, but the album is split. Tracks 1 - 4 are hard rock songs which are followed by four ballads in a row. For me, this is where the album goes terribly wrong. Though it makes for an interesting gimmick and showcases the band's diversity it also makes for an uneven listen. It's also unfortunate that the ballads are something only a fan of American Idol or Avril Lavigne could enjoy. This is just generic ballads, some of which sound like they are trying to cross over to modern country radio. I could picture some of these songs being sung on Glee. With lyrics like "I feel beautiful with you", I could also imagine Kelly Clarkson singing the song on one of those horrid talent show competitions. Being a fan of hard rock and heavy metal, I not only don't like this stuff, but I detest it!

Whereas the concept of Lzzy Hale becoming Dr. Jekyll and Mz. Hyde in the album is a clever one lyrically, I find that the album as a whole is hard to listen to. I sort of wish the band would have stuck to the Mz. Hyde approach because the Dr. Jekyll side is dull and cheesy. One appeals to devoted fans of hard rock while the other appeals to a group of people who only like the flavor of the month pop singles and will move on when the next big pop single comes along.

Wild Life? Halestorm  - Into the Wild Life (Atlantic) 2015

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 (3:36)
8. Bad Girl's World (5:08)
9. Gonna Get Mine (2:57)
10. The Reckoning (3:44)
11. Apocalyptic (3:13)
12. What Sober Couldn't Say (3:33)
13. I Like It Heavy (4:54)
14. Jump The Gun (3:08)
12. Unapologetic (4:08)

Halestorm's 2015 release, "Into the Wild" is anything but wild. I was somewhat excited about a new album from this band after liking some of the more rocking material on "The Strange Case Of..." However, upon popping this CD into my car player the first time, what came out the speakers was not the hard rock I was expecting. Despite having one of the best voices in hard rock, Lizzy Hale's new release is the definition of overproduced, generic, modern radio-rock/pop. Add a bit of steel guitar to "Dear Daughter" and this song would fit in perfectly with all the pop-country artists such as Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift and Miranda Lambert. "What Sober Couldn't Say" would fit perfectly on pop-country radio as it is. Other songs such as album opener "Scream" sounds more like something Katy Perry would record than a real hard rock or heavy metal band. Even rockers like "Mayhem" and "Apocalyptic" sound like Nickelback-grade commercial pap, even if Lizzy herself gives great vocal performances. It's also notable that the main riff of "Apocalyptic" is very similar to "Mississippi Queen". "I Like It Heavy" reminds me of the queen of rock and roll Joan Jett, thought the production robs the song of it's raw edge. Despite the song title, the song is not 'heavy'.

As with "The Stranger Case of..." this album is bogged down by too many ballads as well. "Dear Daughter," "Bad Girl's World", "The Reckoning" and "What Sober Couldn't Say" are all ballads. Of those, "The Reckoning" is the most interesting, being an almost ominous power-ballad that would probably do well on pop radio if given a chance. 

"Into the Wild Life" has its moments, but it's far from a solid hard rock album. It's far from "wild" and mostly boring, slickly-produced, modern radio rock.

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