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Halestorm - 'Vicious' http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/0b/28/f4/halestorm-vicious-84-1541537249.jpg Hot

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Another supreme chapter in an already impressive career.

Halestorm's previous album, 'Into The Wild Life', somewhat divided opinions, largely due to its more organic, stripped-back production and the abundance of more reflective, balladic songs. However, I enjoyed it immensely and welcomed their attempt to spread their musical wings, viewing the album's experimental nature as more of a compulsion for evolution. 'Vicious', album number four from the Pennsylvania quartet, sees a significant return to the tougher, contemporary Hard Rock style of 'The Strange Case Of...' masterpiece (in some part thanks to the excellent Nick Rasculinecz production) while still maintaining the more mature and diverse outlook, thus it sits somewhere between the previous two releases sound-wise.

The key to Halestorm's success is undoubtedly Lzzy Hale. An intriguing lyricist who is unafraid to completely open up and reveal her emotions to her fans, it's the sheer dynamic range and expressiveness of that incredible voice which truly emphasises her appeal. It seems whatever challenge Lzzy Hale throws at herself, she absolutely surpasses, and 'Vicious' is abundant with her vocal histrionics.

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The tumultuous screams that announce the terrifically rambunctious opener 'Black Vultures', the quasi-Rap verses of 'Skulls', the rapid-fire delivery of the verses on the searing first single 'Uncomfortable' and the soaring vocal escalation of 'Painkiller' highlight the album's heavier cuts. Yet it's the divergent nature of the boundary-pushing material that escalates Lzzy Hale's aptitude; the variance between the feisty seductress she portrays on 'Do Not Disturb' to the sultry innocence of 'Conflicted' is a prime example, along with the controlled screams of the outstanding 'Killing Ourselves To Live' and the complete heart-breaking anguish she expresses during the acoustic ballad 'Heart Of Novocaine'.

Halestorm are certainly not solely 'The Lzzy Hale Show' though, as guitarist Joe Hottinger, bassist Josh Smith and drummer Arejay Hale prove they're all equal to the sum of their parts; the excellent middle section of 'Killing Ourselves To Live' just one shining example of their combined musical prowess.

Overall, while 'Vicious' isn't as immediate as 'The Strange Case Of...', the subtle melodies gradually captivate with repeated listens, the likes of 'Buzz', 'White Dress' and the irresistible 'Vicious' itself representing Halestorm's commercial brilliance, while the closing ballad 'The Silence' is simply phenomenal; Lzzy Hale's spine-tingling voice soaring over an understated acoustic-based melody that bears similarities to Alter Bridge's 'Watch Over You'.

For me, Halestorm are undoubtedly the greatest female-fronted Rock band on the planet and 'Vicious' is another supreme chapter in an already impressive career.

Ant Heek

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