Halestorm - The Strange Case Of... Review
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 05.04.2012
Halestorm is back with their second studio album following on the success of 2009's self-titled debut. But can their powerful vocals and balls-out hard rock anthems strike gold a second time? 411's Jeremy Thomas checks in with his full review!
1. "Love Bites (So Do I)" (3:11)
2. "Mz. Hyde" (3:22)
3. "I Miss the Misery" (3:03)
4. "Freak Like Me" (3:38)
5. "Beautiful with You" (3:16)
6. "In Your Room" (2:46)
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" (3:11)
11. "American Boys" (3:28)
12. "Here's to Us" (2:57)
In 2012, everyone seems to be asking whether rock is dead. While pop and hip-hop acts rule the chart, rock seems to have become the providence of indie rock bands such as (among many others) Arcade Fire, Foster the People, Gotye and Bon Iver. For those looking for some honest-to-God hard rock to rule the charts however, the pickings seem kind of slim with disappointing efforts by the likes of Van Halen and Shinedown being the best-known examples. Into this lackluster scene enters Halestorm. The Pennsylvania-based band, fronted by Lzzy Hale, made a splash in 2009 when their self-titled debut album dropped with an unapologetic desire to rock that sounded different--in a very good way--than the angst-ridden mood of their more well-known contemporaries. After three years and an exceptional covers EP to tide fans over, the band has returned with their second album The Strange Case Of... in an attempt continue their rise to the top of the hard rock scene.
The Strange Case Of... is a title in reference to Robert Louis Stevenson's classic The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and it is an apt reference for this album. The twelve tracks contained within the release carry the spectrum of a hard rock album from aggressive, driving metal to epic ballads. The album kicks off with one of the former, as "Love Bites (So Do I)" starts itself off with a fast-paced guitar riff leading into Hale's vocals about an offer to make a guy forget about his bitchy girlfriend. Hale is one of the better vocalists in the hard rock scene and she lets them out in full force on this track; but more than the sheer power of her voice, she has the right rock chick attitude a mix of snarl and pure badass power. From there the album kicks right along into "Ms. Hyde," with just enough of a touch of the electronic along with hard-hitting drum work and guitar while Hale sings great lines like "I can be the bitch/I can play the whore/Or your fairytale princess, who could ask for more?" It's playful but that doesn't take the edge off.
Moving right along, "I Miss the Misery" is the highlight of the album. On the surface, it sounds like the kind of masochistic song that you could hear anyone from the world of rock or even pop singing. I could completely see Miley Cyrus of all people singing a song about missing the pain that a lover brought. This is the exact opposite kind of take from what Miley would do though. There's no agonizing about it, no "I hate how masochistic this is" kind of mewling. Hale is all about the joy of the pain here and she's not only unapologetic about it, she revels in it. The chorus is incredibly catchy and as the lyrics point out, the song isn't even about the fictional target of the song as Hale sings, "I miss the late nights/donít miss you at all." It's something like a heartache song mixed with a breakup song with a kick in the crotch for good measure. The next track, "Freak Like Me," is the kind of anthem for the dispossessed metal youth that any great rock band should have at some point and continues the trend of ball-busting rock.
It's after those four all-out rock tracks that things get thrown off, though. The band switches to three straight ballads and the switch from full-force metal to gentler crooning is jarring. That's not a bad thing; in fact as I said, it fits fully with the album title and Hale gets a chance to show how she excels in everything from all-out rock to soaring melodies. However the first of these tracks, "Beautiful With You," is so utterly out of place that it's actually too jarring. The song sounds prepackaged for inclusion on one of The CW's shows during a montage scene after Blake Lively has broken up with Ian Somerhalder or the like. The next song, "In Your Room," is a much better ballad and probably would have been a better one to lead off this trio. It's softer but better-written and more emotional without the need for the overdone inspirational message that "Beautiful With You" carries. Similarly, "Break In" is a wonderful ballad, with a piano arrangement accompanying the vocals.
With the majority of the ballads out of the way, the album jumps back to rock with a catchy, uptempo song titled "Rock Show." It's a salute to concertgoers and frankly has some of the best lyrics on the album, with a great bridge that starts off "This goes out to anyone one/whose heart beats like a kick drum/when a bitchin' riff comes." After that are "Daughters of Darkness" and "You Call Me a Bitch Like It's a Bad Thing," both of which are empowering anthems for young rock girls and both of which are a lot of fun. There is a sound reminiscent of an army of Doc Martins marching in step in "Daughters" that makes it just a little more fun than it otherwise would have been. The album finishes off with a wonderfully down-and-dirty, Southern rock-influenced rocker titled "American Boys" that includes some great guitar work by Joe Hottinger and then one last ballad, "Here's To Us," that seems much more within the band's styling. It's the kind of rock-style ballad that doesn't have to completely slow down in order to get its point across and provides a great capper on a great album.
Standout Tracks: "Love Bites (So Do I)," "I Miss the Misery," "Freak Like Me," "Daughters of Darkness," "American Boys"
Skippable: "Beautiful With You"
The 411: Halestorm's second studio album, The Strange Case OfÖ, continues to make the case of why they deserve to be called one of the best newer rock bands out there. With the incredibly powerful and versatile vocal stylings of Lzzy Hale providing pitch-perfect delivery of the material and Hale, Joe Hottinger, Josh Smith and Arejay Hale delivering strong instrumental work, you have one of the most fun hard rock albums of the past couple of years. Despite a couple minor issues, this is one of the standout albums of the first half of 2012 to date.