Halestorm – Into The Wild Life
Release Date: April 14, 2015
Pennsylvania hard rock quartet, Halestorm has been anything but conventional throughout its career. After releasing its eponymous debut in 2009, the quartet followed it up with a full-length live album in 2010, a cover-song EP in 2011, before releasing the breakthrough sophomore album, The Strange Case Of… in 2012. Halestorm, which features siblings Lzzy and Arejay Hale along with Josh Smith and Joe Hottinger, followed up their second studio effort with another live offering and a second covers EP, ReAniMate 2.0. Six years to the month of its debut and three years to the month of its sophomore effort, the band finally releases its third studio album, Into the Wild Life.
As unusual as the band’s recording journey has been, its sound has evolved and taken risks with each effort. The self-titled 2009 effort was one of the best debut albums of the new millennium. The record showcased a talented young band synthesizing its passion for a half-century of popular rock music through a modern perspective, without losing the nuances so many contemporary artists ignore. The Strange Case Of… earned the band a Grammy Award for the hard rock anthem, “Love Bites (So Do I)”, but it also showed a more introspective and decidedly rich and emotive side of the band’s personality and sound. With Into the Wild Life, Halestorm has ditched any preconceived notions of what they should sound like and created a record full of sonic diversity, without boundaries.
The album opens with “Scream”, a track that resonates with electro and industrial elements that hum with an undercurrent of hunger. Lzzy’s trademark vocals are immediately engaging, and while the listener tries to decide what to make of this new musical territory, the comforting Halestorm vibe makes it easy to open one’s mind to fresh possibilities.
The opener segues into “I Am the Fire”, an angsty and smoldering number that recalls one of the band’s early, self-released songs, “I Bleed”. Hottinger’s dark, precision riffs maintain the songs edginess and continue to fuel the sense of hunger that began with “Scream”.
Halestorm slips into the twisted groove it began with their previous hits like “Freak Like Me” and “Mz. Hyde” as Lzzy struts into “Sick Individual” with her middle finger in the air. This sentiment is at the heart of what the band is all about; reveling in both the light and dark, and recognizing that both live within each of us.
The band spent a good chunk of 2014 on the road with country singer, Eric Church (also tapping his producer, Jay Joyce, for this record); so hearing the chain-gang, gospel style feel of the album’s first single, “Amen” comes as no surprise. The song manages to blend country and R&B together with rock and roll for a song that praises one’s higher power while beaded in sweat and steamy sexuality.
Next up, Halestorm offers a poignant open letter to young women everywhere with the lovely ballad, “Dear Daughter”. Every woman deserves to be seen, heard, respected and supported as a human being, and this is the message Lzzy & Co. send here.
“New Modern Love” slips into a swampy rhythm and mimics some of the lyrical cadence of “Sick Individual”. Smith’s bass quietly throbs throughout this one, and Hottinger’s guitar work adds a perfect atmospheric balance. Lyrically the song is about embracing who you are and not letting bigots and naysayers to rent space in your head.
Arejay kicks it up a notch behind the drum kit as he propels Halestorm through the heavy rocker, “Mayhem”, which the band has been teasing fans with for over a year at select concerts. Even as the quartet takes its sound in new directions, the Halestorm mantra of living life on one’s own terms is the glue that pulls all three records together as a unified whole.
“Bad Girl’s World” and “The Reckoning” find the band entering a very bluesy and soulful swing that somehow fits right into the organic and unapologetic nature of the entire record. The confident swagger returns on “Gonna Get Mine” and the ballsy album closer, “I Like It Heavy”. In between they tune up what is sure to be another monster hit for the band with “Apocalyptic”.
Into the Wild Life is easily Halestorm’s most intriguing and daring effort, but it admittedly lacks one or two heavier, straight-forward rock cuts to liven it up and shift the tone of the record in places. If you were expecting a record in line with the band’s first two efforts, you will be thrown for a bit of a loop here. Big production is tossed aside for an album of visceral continuity and human expression. Still, by any measure, Into the Wild Life is pure Halestorm.
As the band continues to grow as musicians, songwriters, and people, they have bucked the trend of chasing the formula for being true to who they are and living in and for the moment. Three years of fresh experiences have translated into an album thick with nuance and moods. You may not love every track on the album, but you have to respect their passion and commitment to being true to themselves and their art. With Into the Wild Life, Halestorm remains unpredictable, and as the album’s bonus track declares, unapologetic. Can I get an amen?