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Halestorm’s Back From The Dead: what doesn’t kill Lzzy Hale and co makes them stronger

Album review: Lzzy Hale’s arena rockers get a post-Covid power surge on new album Back From The Dead

Halestorm
(Image: © Atlantic)

For a long time there were two Halestorms: the live beast and the slick, comparatively sanitised recorded entity. The former version earned them a mighty, mosh-pit-friendly reputation. The latter put them on the radio and won them a Grammy. On 2018’s Vicious, they finally brought their live chops into the studio in a meaningful way. Now reunited with producer Nick Raskulinecz (of Mastodon, Evanescence and Code Orange fame, among others), they’ve gone a few steps further, galvanising a pandemic’s worth of pent-up demons and pouring them into their heaviest record yet.

Where Vicious was angry, Back From The Dead is livid. There are raw, tortured sentiments with furious chops and beats to match. It’s shiny (even with the live edge, Halestorm records still come with a decent helping of gloss) but brutal. It’s very loud. You couldn’t call it ‘easy listening’, although it avoids the morosely confessional vibe of some Covid-era releases. And crucially, because this is Halestorm we’re talking about, it’s all hinged on songs: proper sing-your-larynx-to-shreds songs.

The titular opening track sets the tone with rivers of riffy hellfire, unleashing Lzzy Hale like something from Satan’s lair. It’s as if Ronnie James Dio and Maria Brink had a baby and set it on fire… or something. It’s the most squarely ‘metaaal’ they’ve ever sounded on record, and for all Lzzy’s deeply personal performances – and there are a lot of them on this record – it’s no one-woman show. There’s more of everything, from everyone. More screams. More extremes. More killer solos from Joe Hottinger. More deft, thunderous assaults from Arejay Hale (just Lzzy’s kid brother dicking around with giant drumsticks? Not so much), with bassist Josh Smith anchoring the whole affair like a boss.

Lyrically it pulls no punches. You’ll find barbed shots at industry misogyny in Bombshell (‘Be a good girl, play along/wear your short skirt, sing your song’), dark sarcasm in Brightside (‘I’ll keep looking on the bright side of life/’cos it only gets darker’) and uncaged mental anguish in Psycho Crazy (‘If you want crazy, I’ll give you psycho’). At times it borders on relentless, but in a way that’s the point; this is a powerful set of songs that aren’t afraid to get real.

And, of course, there are slivers of light. Terrible Things is bathed in glowy strings. Closer Raise Your Horns is all piano and voice: a love letter to the world that Lzzy and Arejay have inhabited since they were kids. And single The Steeple is a rousing, metalhead call-to-arms that fans will adore. It’s the sort of outcast community statement that Halestorm are masters of, with Lzzy in the centre like a benevolent hard rock cult leader – only, erm, not corrupt or scary.

If you want beer-drinking music, Back From The Dead is not it. But if it’s a hard-hitting yet catchy dose of catharsis you seek – an intense, ultimately restorative tonic after such a strange couple of years – turn it up and dive straight in.

Polly is Features Editor at Classic Rock magazine, where she commissions regular pieces and longer reads (including new band coverage) and writes a few things. She also writes for Louder, Prog and Metal Hammer, and talks about songs on the 20 Minute Club podcast. In her spare time she writes fiction and cooks.