The Strange Case of…
CD | MP3
Release date: April 9, 2012
It’s not often that you get the pleasure of hearing a solid hard rock band with a female lead singer. I’m not exactly sure why that is but it just is. There are exceptions, such as old school Heart, but hard rock is traditionally dominated by male singers. One modern notable exception is the band Halestorm. Halestorm successfully blends a modern sensibility of instrumentation and production with a classic 80’s hair band sensibility and tone. This is a tough fence to sit on. Most bands that try it either sound poser or they just sound like a complete throwback to that era of music, which isn’t in and of itself a bad thing. Halestorm does this and also brings us a powerhouse female lead vocal that once you hear it, you won’t forget it.
The band’s self-titled release from 2009 was a refreshing hit of 80’s metal made smart and led by one of the best female lead singers since the girls of Heart and it spawned a slew of singles and made the band one to watch. The band set out on a tour that really never seemed to end. The tour spawned an explosive live album and an EP of cover songs. The cover album, titled Reanimate: The Covers, featured a Heart cover song. Did they choose to do something like “Barracuda”? Nope, the band actually picked one of the songs commonly known as the start of a soft rock version of the band. Oh well. They did give us slamming versions of Skid Row’s “Slave to the Grind” and the GNR classic “They’re Out to Get Me.” Oh and they managed to make a Lady GaGa song pretty awesome too.
This brings us to The Strange Case of…, the band’s new album just released last month. This new album continues where their self-titled release left off with thrashy hard rock riffs and explosive vocals. The single “Love Bites (But So Do I)” represents the true core of where the band is coming from. It’s hard and fast rock with a bitter love story in the vocals. One has to wonder if singer Lzzy Hale has ever actually been in a good relationship. Then you get your answer, sort of, with the emotionally charged power ballad titled “Break In.” The music in this tune is much more mixed back and it allows Lzzy’s vocals to really shine. Yes, she can do more than scream and it shows here. “Beautiful with You” actually feels a bit odd on this album and form the band in general. It feels sort of like an alternative-tinged teen emo tune. It’s not typical of them, at least based on the two studio albums we have to pull from. It’s not that it’s a bad song; it just doesn’t fit the album’s overall tone.
“American Boys” is however quite predictable of the band and that’s not a bad thing. In the 80’s, hair bands would inevitably take some classic blues rock riffs modernize them, and heavy them up for their spin on that genre. It’s not a stretch because most of this music is based in blues rock no matter how you produce it. If you want to count rivets and you’re a musician, then it would be easy to say that this music wouldn’t exist at all without the minor pentatonic scale. Ok ok enough of that because that’s a road that could “lead” us down a completely different rabbit hole. Speaking of the leads on this album, you know we had to speak of them at some point: they are a mix of the previously mentioned blues infusion with a hefty dose of other influences, including a little Rage Against the Machine here and there. We like noise when it’s used properly.
Perhaps the best and worst thing that can be said about The Strange Case of… is that it’s another Halestorm album. Everything you liked about the first studio album is in full effect here. In fact, much of this release feels like a continuation of the first. With that said, it doesn’t have the freshness of the first album and much of the lyrical content is a little of a retread from the first album’s themes: sex, break-ups, and bad relationship. You could argue that those similar themes fall in line with this album feeling like a continuation of the first. There is a certain level of hoakiness to this sort of music and the band owns it without spooking it and making it to silly, so again they handle it all nearly perfectly. If you’re a fan of the first release, then you’ll be extremely happy with this one. If you aren’t a fan of the previous release, pick it up and you’ll become a fan, then pick this one up and you’ll continue to be happy.