Halestorm are Back From The Dead and into unashamedly maximalist territory

Pennsylvania pop-rockers Halestorm bounce back from lockdown with huge-sounding fifth album Back From The Dead

Halestorm - Back From The Dead album art
(Image: © Atlantic)

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Building on the commercial clout of their 2018 album Vicious – a Top 10 hit on both sides of the Atlantic – Lzzy Hale and her hard-riffing cohorts return with a collection of huge-sounding pop-rock anthems loosely charting the band’s mental and emotional struggles through the pandemic. 

Back From The Dead reunites Halestorm with Vicious producer Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Korn, Alice In Chains, Evanescence) and longtime co-producer Scott Stevens. 

Sonically, their approach is more unashamedly maximalist than ever here, bulking up even the slighter songs with densely layered arrangements, stacked vocal harmonies, mountainous peaks and vertiginous drops – with agreeable hints of symphonic metal in the mix. This baroque overload is mostly effective, although it sometimes feels like a smokescreen for flimsy songwriting.

Those eternal hard-rock standbys of good and evil, sin and salvation, Heaven and Hell are recurring motifs. Already familiar as a standalone single from last year, the title track is a prime example: a booming, diabolical, flame-grilled beast of a tune. 

The mighty, goth-tinged Wicked Ways and the pummelling, glam-infused My Redemption play on similar angel/devil imagery, both sounding majestically huge. The Steeple crystallises all this quasi-religious imagery into a fiery church ‘where God and the Devil call home’. 

This gargantuan gospel rocker might well be the first Halestorm song that Tina Turner could have belted out in her explosive prime, a delicious reminder of the deep debt that hard rock owes to the blues and its raunchy cousin R&B.

When Halestorm step away from this rock’n’soul bombast, however, quality control starts to wobble a little. Strange Girl is a pretty decent grunge-pop empathy anthem for independent misfit women everywhere, featuring meticulously polished vocal harmonies and a killer punchline: ‘I will never be you.’ But Bombshell tackles similar themes with much more trite, cartoonish, badass attitude. 

The fuck-you sentiment is admirable, but Hale has written much smarter feminist take-downs than this. Likewise the throwaway punk-lite Brightside feels like thin filler, while the obligatory heart-tugging power ballad Terrible Things couches glib lyrics in lush orchestral country-rock twang. 

Back From The Dead ultimately delivers more great standalone tracks than end-to-end consistency, but it is still a pleasing reminder that Lzzy Hale remains arguably the premiere female rock icon of her generation.

Stephen Dalton

Stephen Dalton has been writing about all things rock for more than 30 years, starting in the late Eighties at the New Musical Express (RIP) when it was still an annoyingly pompous analogue weekly paper printed on dead trees and sold in actual physical shops. For the last decade or so he has been a regular contributor to Classic Rock magazine. He has also written about music and film for Uncut, Vox, Prog, The Quietus, Electronic Sound, Rolling Stone, The Times, The London Evening Standard, Wallpaper, The Film Verdict, Sight and Sound, The Hollywood Reporter and others, including some even more disreputable publications.