Halestorm‘s The Strange Case Of… was the first album I’ve ever given a perfect score for, and I’ve only given two others since. I thought so highly of that album from a band whose self-titled debut album also blew me out of the water the first time I heard it, all almost completely thanks to the voice of Lzzy Hale. Having been a fan since not long after the release of the first album, I loved and still do love, seeing Halestorm grow more and more into one of today’s premier rock bands. Naturally I was thrilled when Halestorm inevitably released their third album Into The Wild Life, but as always I had to ask myself if this could top or come close to their previous albums.
The first song Halestorm released from the anticipated Into The Wild Life was “Apocalyptic”. I’m used to the first song not being the best song from albums. Nine times out of ten I find the first song underwhelming and usually find that either (or both) the song ends up growing on me or the album, in general, when finally released, usually ends up being much better than the one song. However, I can honestly say now that “Apocalyptic” is an utter disappointment, sounding like it was written and put together in five minutes. “Amen”, the second song released before Into The Wild Life was released, is only slightly better. That’s a song that actually has grown on me a bit, but it’s still not the Halestorm we’ve come to love.
Getting the absolute negativity out of the way, there are other songs on Into The Wild Life that sound like little effort was put in to, particularly “Gonna Get Mine” which is just forgettable. There are other underwhelming tracks that have at least something special to them like opening track “Scream” and “Sick Individual”, particularly the latter has a chorus that can stick in your head.
I’ll hand it to Halestorm in saying the album is diverse, but I found The Strange Case Of… to also be diverse while never losing that hard rock edge. For Into The Wild Life Halestorm rely on making a number of songs in different styles which does kind of work, I mean “New Modern Love” has a twang to it unique to any other Halestorm song as well as a strange drum beat that only half sounds like it was played on an actual drum set. Closing track “I Like It Heavy” has a country vibe to it (though it is certainly not a country song) before Lzzy closes the album with a soulful solo vocal performance. I do find that to be a good way to close the album.
I feel I don’t appreciate “Dear Daughter” as much as Lzzy Hale would have wanted her listeners to appreciate it. There have been some terrific, and I mean terrific softer songs by Halestorm, but “Dear Daughter” is no “Break In” or “I’m Not An Angel“. I like how it starts, and it has some of the best lyrics on Into The Wild Life, but I don’t like how it turns into a pop song with all of the effects added in the background. “What Sober Couldn’t Say”‘s saving grace is it’s chorus, which manages to stay in my head after every listen, but in regards to the slow songs on Into The Wild Life, I’d have to say “The Reckoning” is where Halestorm show signs that they haven’t lost their touch. While being on the softer side, it still has the hard rock vibe that songs like “Beautiful With You” or (my personal favourite Halestorm song) “Better Sorry Than Safe”, only “The Reckoning” at times follows the same overproduction that a lot of the album seems to have. Regardless I find it to be one of the best songs on the album and the best of the slower tracks.
That brings me to the songs that I think are the three best on the album. We’ll start with “I Am The Fire”, because it was that song that for the longest time I’d have to listen to in order to convince myself that Into The Wild Life is at least a worthwhile Halestorm album. Another overproduced song (I seriously wish Halestorm stuck with Howard Benson), it’s Lzzy Hale‘s vocal performance that makes this song just incredible. Thankfully, and I haven’t mentioned this yet, her voice sounds better on even the worst (“Apocalyptic”) songs on Into The Wild Life.
“Mayhem” has the intensity that I wish the other heavier songs had. This is what I consider to be an evolved Halestorm, starting where they left off with The Strange Case Of…. “Bad Girl’s World” is the last of the great songs on Into The Wild Life. It is one of the songs on the album that is very un-Halestorm but I never said I don’t like the diversity of the album, I just think that they sound like they don’t really know what they’re doing on songs like “What Sober Couldn’t Say” or “New Modern Love” For “Bad Girl’s World” Halestorm make a song that sounds like it could have been written in the 80’s, which may be why it appeals to me. What hits me the most is the guitar solo. I’ve always considered Joe Hottinger to be a weak guitarist and Lzzy being only a little better (have you heard their cover of Dio‘s “Straight Through The Heart”?), but the isolated guitar solo heard at the end of the song is a complete surprise. Mind you I can’t verify if that is Joe or Lzzy, but whoever plays that solo changed my opinion about the guitar playing capabilities of Halestorm‘s guitarists.
So my final thoughts. Does Into The Wild Life come close to Halestorm‘s previous two albums? It absolutely and completely does not. For much of the album I feel Halestorm doesn’t know what they are doing. I wish I could say the album grows on me, but that only happened when I gave it a second listen, ever since then there are just a few songs that have grown on me, such as “The Reckoning”, “New Modern Love” and “I Like It Heavy”. Only about half of the album is what I’d call pretty good, and there are even songs on the album that I downright don’t like or find relevant at all, which I never thought possible when it comes to Halestorm. I blame a lot of it on the production. There are too many tricks that make Into The Wild Life sound unauthentic. However, there are signs of life at many points on the album which save my doubts that the band is done making great albums. There’s always album number four!
Reviewed by Rock Review Phil
“I Am The Fire” – I wanted to pick “Mayhem” because it’s what I wish most of the album sounded like, but I feel “I Am The Fire” represents the album better, and I do happen to like the song better as well. It has that over produced value that you get with Into The Wild Life while sticking to what makes Halestorm songs so great: Lzzy Hale singing her heart out from beginning to end.
7 (Out of 10)
|2.||“I Am The Fire”||3:37|
|6.||“New Modern Love”||3:38|
|8.||“Bad Girl’s World”||5:08|
|9.||“Gonna Get Mine”||2:57|
|12.||“What Sober Couldn’t Say”||3:33|
|13.||“I Like It Heavy”||4:53|