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ALBUM REVIEW: Halestorm ‘The Strange Case of…..’

As promised – albeit last month – in the review of Slash’s gig at the Hammersmith Apollo, I have finally got my grubby little hands on Halestorm’s second album,...

As promised – albeit last month – in the review of Slash’s gig at the Hammersmith Apollo, I have finally got my grubby little hands on Halestorm’s second album, ‘The Strange Case Of…’, and so now it’s time for a review…

Halestorm hail (eh, eh – see what I did there?) from Pennsylvania, USA and are a four piece band, featuring brother and sister duo Arejay (drums) and Elizabeth “Lzzy” Hale (lead vocals and guitar). Joe Hottinger (lead guitar) and Josh Smith (bass) form the other half of the band. With the line-up settled from 2004 they released their self-titled debut album in 2009 which has now been followed up by this most recent release. They have toured almost non-stop in recent times and played with many well-known acts, such as Staind, Papa Roach, Theory of a Deadman and Heaven and Hell. If you’re a fan of Black Stone Cherry’s most recent album then you might be interested to know that its Lzzys vocals you can hear on the tracks ‘Such a shame’ and ‘Won’t let go’. Clearly they are doing well for themselves…

Arguably this has been topped off by accompanying Slash on his recent ‘Apocalyptic Love’ tour which is how they came to the attention of theblackflag. ‘The Strange Case of’ is a `12 track album, (15 if you buy the deluxe version) and has a run time of about 42 minutes. Anyone who read my review of them at Slash’s gig will know that I was really impressed by them live and so I was really hoping the album would reflect just how good I thought there were on that night.

The opening four tracks are really good, full on fast and furious tracks. The opener ‘Love Bites (So do I)’ has a fast drum track supported by heavy guitars with Lzzy showcasing her powerful vocal range and for the next three tracks they continue their assault. ‘Mz Hyde’ and ‘I miss the misery’ (tracks 2 and 3 respectively) reflect some excellent rhythm and vocal changes – from a high pitched but balanced tone to a more aggressive growl. In fact, the intro’s on some of these songs sometimes makes you think that Halestorm are a heavier band than they actually are – they manage to switch from heavy rock to slightly more commercial rock really well and it allows the lyrics to come across nicely. ‘Freak like me’ is the fourth track and is the probably the heaviest on the album. Lyrically its aiming to be an ‘anthem for the youth’ (If you’re a freak like me, Wave your flag, If you’re a freak like me, Get off your ass, it’s our time now, To let it all hang out) and does a pretty good job in fairness – I’d certainly join any flag waving group Lzzy was part of.

Four tracks in and I am really liking the album, tapping along to the thumping bass line and actually enjoying some more of the screechy moments from Lzzy. But from here, things take a turn…to….ballads? OK I think to myself, you like a ballad (in fact I love a ballad, ‘November Rain’, ‘Wind of change’ to name but two) so give this a chance. In fact there are three in a row and whilst they aren’t bad songs, I can’t help thinking that track listing wise they could have broken them up a tad. ‘Beautiful with you’ is a good solid track, ‘In your room’ sounds like it could have been released by an American Idol (not like Martin Luther King idol, I mean from the TV show) winner and ‘Break In’ is piano based and definitely shows a different side to the band. It’s a nice range and whilst it definitely adds to the album in terms of listening experience, for me it’s one ballad too many.

‘Rock show’ is track 8 and is another stand out track. This is a really good, if not a touch cheesy track, and from my experience at the Slash gig (I’ve mentioned that right?) it is really well received at a rock show! The last four tracks are pretty solid too – including an ode to American boys called……..’American Boys’ – and ends with a ballad/slower song ‘Here’s to us’.

Overall it is a good, strong and solid album. Certainly there are some standout tracks (incidentally, the one’s they played at ‘the gig’) but the other tracks by no means are bad songs. I think the first four tracks with ‘Rock show’ thrown in are the best tracks on the album but after listening to the album a few times on repeat I found myself singing ‘Break In’…as I said, I love a ballad…

Words: Brian McKay

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