By now, just about everybody my age has heard at least one person that’s in their late thirties or early forties (or older) say “wow, that album makes me feel old.” Looking back at something that came out when you were a teenager and realizing that it’s now twenty years old, thirty years old, or whatever is enough to turn your hair gray on the spot. As a twenty-three-year-old, I don’t have that too often, however, even ten year anniversaries make me wonder where the hell the time went. Case in point, Halestorm’s debut album Halestorm is now ten years old. Though not huge in the metal community, they’ve gotten a lot of praise in the modern rock world. I found them when they only had two records out, this one being something that got a lot of plays in my later teen years. I also love that they’re based so close to my home; Red Lion, Pennsylvania, which is nothing more than a half hour drive. To me, Halestorm have always been a “new rock band,” but putting all of my personal rantings aside, can we really say they’re new anymore?
Compared to recent look-backs at Black Sabbath or W.A.S.P., yes. But overall, they’ve grown substantially since Halestorm, and it’s the years of development that make this seem so rookie. Halestorm have actually been around since the late ‘90s when vocalist Elizabeth “Lzzy” Hale and her brother Arejay Hale started tampering with notes and banging drums at the ages of thirteen and ten. Joe Hottinger and Josh Smith would join in the early 2000s for guitar and bass duties. With a growing love of classic metal acts like Judas Priest and Dio alongside radio-pop induced rock like Heart, they would begin to craft their sound. Eventually, extracting older influence and dripping it into the bucket of mid-2000s rock would boost fabrication for what was needed to birth the self-titled debut. Thus, 2009 gave us this sexually charged and preppy, harmony-laced hard rock record with touches of heavy metal.
Barring this in mind, it’s no surprise that Halestorm works as a flipped perspective from many a glam metal act in the ‘80s. While the melodies and moods were driven by their love of sex and women, this does the same thing from the opposite perspective. “I Get Off” is an attitude drenched ditty based around harder riffs with a pretentious feel backing the lyrics around being a tease and, well, getting off to it. On the other hand, some of the music like “It’s Not You” or “What Were You Expecting” fall in the lines of rejecting with pride, which are delivered with a punchier kick that draws from heavier influences rather poppier ones.
As the personal chops do make up a fair majority of this, it does tamper with accessible means with the clear intention of gaining radio airplay. “I Bet U Wish U Had Me Back” is played in a minor tempo with a push for heavy-hearted licks that resemble slight sadness but no regrets. Really, this entire record seems to center around legit encounters within the band’s (mostly Lzzy’s) personal experiences. “Better Sorry Than Safe” is easily my favorite track from this as it not only absorbs every one of these aspects but wrings them out in a far more mature fashion that’s less flashy and better composed. The emotion in it is easy to relate to, hearkening in on the pain of leaving a partner of a couple of years. “Familiar Taste Of Poison” is a full-on ballad that builds these ideas upon softer licks and soothing harmonies, so you get plenty of fruits to pull from the garden.
Overall, I wouldn’t really say there is a whole lot of real metal moments on Halestorm. Lzzy’s signature screams aren’t very prominent yet, the riffs aren’t laid out in a metallic fashion, and most of the attitude comes from relationships and lovers. But the next effort A Strange Case Of cakes this on a lot more. The heavier songs on here, save for the few I mentioned, aren’t the strongest. For example, “Dirty Work” is a throwaway song that holds some merit but won’t live up to what’s to come. Not saying that every hard hitter is bad, but the strength lies in the tunes that dial back a bit.
But what’s important is that the flow here is incredible and despite the different angles of approach, it’s fluid and contained in a firmly tacked bundle. Many people may refer to this as “a woman dominating a man’s world,” but I view it as a woman’s reaction to a man’s world. I got the pleasure of meeting all four members of Halestorm after a show back in 2015 just by chance, and they were all very nice and down to Earth people. Despite the level of edge, they’re a very safe band, and I think that’s what the intention is. Though they may not be something that your typical metal goer is gonna jump at, I have nothing but respect for them, and I really dig a lot of their music. Halestorm did a lot more for the industry than people realize.
Halestorm was released on April 28th, 2009 through Atlantic Records, and can be found in CD format. It was also pressed to vinyl in 2015, and both can be found over at Discogs.