1. Black Vultures
5. Do Not Disturb
7. Killing Ourselves To Live
8. Heart of Novocaine
10. White Dress
12. The Silence
After embracing a slicker sound on 2015’s Into The Wild Life album, Pennsylvania quartet Halestorm reassured fans that they’d decided to steer clear of pop influences for the release of fourth album, Vicious, and “double down on rock”. Unfortunately, however, the results are something of a mixed bag.
On periodic EPs and other guest appearances, Halestorm have shown a charming affinity for 80s metal by covering the likes of Skid Row, Whitesnake and Ronnie James Dio. But this time out they’ve failed to absorb those acts’ abilities to craft as many memorable riffs, as Vicious features one lumbering downtuned guitar part after another. The result is a collection of songs that nod more to the clunky chug-rock of the early 2000s than the anthems the band have previously saluted.
Vocally, though, Vicious is undeniably impressive, as singer Lzzy Hale shows off a tremendous range that drips with character. Opener Black Vultures sees her alternately croon, belt and roar defiant lyrics about resiliency and empowerment. The playful but schizophrenic Uncomfortable features rapid-fire, Ballroom Blitz-like verses, and her emotional and impressive performance on the acoustic kiss-off Heart Of Novocaine carries the song nicely.
Elsewhere, the album stumbles. The monotonous Skulls alternately nods to dance-pop and rap-rock, the nu metal bounce of White Dress falls flat and the industrial-tinged verses of the title track undermine its sugary-sweet chorus. And even though the band have shown a penchant for sexually-charged lyrics in the past on hits such as Love Bites (So Do I) and I Get Off, libido-fuelled tracks here like one-night-stand-glorifying Do Not Disturb and the coquettish Conflicted feel like low-hanging fruit for a band who have shattered glass ceilings when it comes to inverting such tropes. To be fair to them, though, tracks like Killing Ourselves To Live and the talk box-accented Buzz show that Halestorm unquestionably understand the power of good hooks. It’s a shame that this album relies so much on weak jabs instead.