Another mainstay of the Rock on the Range scene [I’m sensing a pattern here…] and known primarily for their infamously excellent drum circle, Halestorm returns three years after their major label debut with THE STRANGE CASE OF…. Playing like a female-fronted version of Shinedown (which should come as little surprise, considering the familiarity between front-woman Lzzy Hale and Brent Smith – they’ve collaborated both live and in-studio on Shinedown songs), this sophomore effort continues their pursuit of big hooks and an edgy attitude. Unfortunately, the album doesn’t really get anywhere beyond that – it really is THE SOUND OF MADNESS-lite with female vocals and nothing more.
Luckily, Lzzy Hale is one of the better female vocalists in the scene right now. She has spectacular control and attitude, and the edge that she gives her voice balances a fine line between precise technique and raw force. She’s one of the few females out there that makes her gender a completely moot point – she’s more than capable of pulling off (and often besting) the rock ‘n’ roll swagger of her male counterparts. By the end of the first track it’s become obvious that this is no gimmick; she’s just a damn good vocalist.
Because this review is pre-release, the precise songwriters for this album are not readily available yet. However, judging from those on the band’s debut – which includes a variety of familiar faces, including Marti Frederiksen, Brian Howes and, of course, Dave Bassett – one gets the feeling that the case will not be dissimilar for this release. The results are as obviously competent as they are disappointingly unoriginal and mundane.
The result is carried entirely by the charisma of Hale, who depressingly proves that all you really need is a powerful and convincing vocalist to capture the listener’s attention. Still, she gets her chance to shine in both the dark and the light, as the album takes a baffling turn into straight pop ballads in the middle. It turns things around again in the second half, but by the time it arrives, the album has already given just about everything that it has to give. With the exception of a few solos that were apparently laid down by Eric Friedman of Submersed and Tremonti fame, there’s nothing worth sinking your teeth into.
It’s very telling when a rock album that runs only 40 minutes feels long. It’s a damn shame, because anybody who has seen this band live knows that they have more talent than is on display here. It’s too bad that they feel the need to limit themselves in the way that they’re doing on THE STRANGE CASE OF…. Still, the first three tracks have a terrific rock swagger to them, and the Black Stone Cherry-esque “American Boys” is a highlight, as well. Album closer “Here’s to Us” is also an interesting cut: it may not be particularly groundbreaking, but the fact that it plays like a rated-R Kelly Clarkson song is fascinating.
Fans of the first album should be happy, but others might find themselves rather bored with how little the band tries to push themselves.
Standout tracks: “Mz. Hyde”, “American Boys”, “I Miss the Misery”.