Release Date: 27 July 2018
Label: Atlantic Records
Genre: Hard Rock
Halestorm keep going from strength to strength. Regarded as one of the hardest working bands in rock, they are starting to reap the rewards as their recent UK tour sold out months in advance. And, that was before the critically acclaimed Vicious was released in July of this year. Many critics considered it to be far better than their overly polished Into The Wild Life brought out 3 years before despite its public success.
They kick off Vicious with an inspirational and empowering ‘Black Vultures’ A nod to the importance of stoicism with a chorus melody that reminds you of Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor”. It’s a strong start to the album with strong riffs, powerful screams, a sing-along chorus and lyrics which connect them to the listener. ‘Skulls’ is a more of a dance number and whilst lyrically strong, a refusal to not be just another sheep unable to think for itself, falls short musically. There is nothing inherently wrong with it, it was just dull. I almost forgot it was on as it just became background noise. “Uncomfortable” brings me back with a jolt. It has solid riffs from Joe Hottinger over a solid and is muscular rhythm section as Lzzy spits over the top about how she is unafraid to make you uncomfortable with how she lives and is one of the strongest songs off the album.
“Buzz” and ‘Conflicted’ are sordid but nothing compared to ‘Do Not Disturb’. Halestorm have never been afraid of talking about sexuality in their lyrics but in an album which explores personal struggles with great maturity, the lyrics about inviting a bloke and his girlfriend for a threesome is frankly disappointing. Halestorm are (probably) never going to be social commentators but they made great strides in their song-writing and their sexually charged lyrics have become cliched and seem so out of place. They soon get back on track with ‘Killing Ourselves To Live’; it has a great solo and an anthemic yet heavy chorus will make you want to play it over and over again.
‘Heart of Novocaine’ is a tragic ballad-esque track chronicling a traumatic break-up. Performed with an acoustic guitar (and a bass solo near the end), Lzzy roars over it with such lines as “Thank you for the pain, thank you for the hate, thank you for the way you left me scarred” with emotive power which will move anyone who has suffered heartbreak. It hasn’t been given the treatment in production, which is the downfall of many ballads, but is raw emotion and is far more powerful that way. ‘Painkiller’ is a fun song which will get you up and jumping about with plenty of great vocal hooks. ‘White Dress’ has a nu-metal tinge to it whereas ‘Vicious’ is straight hard rock with a very catchy chorus.
They round off the album with the 2nd ballad; ‘The End of Silence’. Again, driven by an acoustic guitar, Lzzy tones it down and uses a less gritty style which works perfectly with the song and is a nice way to end.
Vicious is a real mixed bag. It has some brilliant songs that will rush you towards the repeat button but others that will rush you towards the skip button. They’ve got back to a proper alternative album; it’s heavier, rawer and it has some great hooks. The rhythm section is solid and there are solos and Lzzy puts in an excellent vocal performance showing great power. It just isn’t consistent enough. It’s a fun listen which most rock fans will enjoy but it won’t go down in history.
Recommended Tracks: ‘Black Vultures’, ‘Uncomfortable’ and ‘Heart of Novocaine’