About as heavy hitting as a hammer made out of marshmallow, Halestorm’s second full-length The Strange Case Of… is an irksome and exasperatingly desperate attempt at crossing the void between pop and metal. It’s an album crammed full of generic swipes at heaviness, but with a collection of songs that scream Prince rather than Prince of Darkness and track after track of polished to the bone production values, this is another flaccid attempt at trying to make metal more accessible.
Back in the day when taking a shot at Nickelback for making large, vacuous stadium music was still a novel form of abuse, Halestorm might have been contenders for such a point of reference. However, it’s not cool to make these kinds of insults anymore; in this bizarre, postmodern world, comparing something that’s shit to Nickelback is actually worse than Nickelback themselves. And in our flurry to critique the critiques of others, we’ve somehow let big, generic, destined-for-fortune metal bands slip through the net; Halestorm is one such offender.
Clearly pushed down a path in a hope to emulate the kind of world-capturing success of bands like Paramore, Halestorm are trying to do for metal what Hayley Williams & co did for rock. However, whilst Paramore forged a sound that retained the melodic elements of their pop roots and combined that with big, entertaining riffs, Halestorm seem completely out of their depth on an album that has neither poppy hooks nor metallic thrust. What they do have are a couple of decent songs and a lot of filler. Album opener ‘Love Bites (And So Do I)’ is easily the best track on the record, not only because it flaunts a furious barrage of riffs and drum rolls, but also because the vocals are gravelly and interesting, catchy enough to fuck you to attention and not readily disposable.
The remainder of the album encounters peaks and troughs as often as Charlie Sheen hits a crate of poppers. You would be forgiven for thinking that Lzzy Hale and her troops have something to prove looking at titles like ‘Freak Like Me’, ‘Rock Show’, ‘Daughters of Darkness’ and ‘You Call Me A Bitch Like It’s A Bad Thing’; we get it, alright, you’re hard, you like metal, you live in the suburbs of normality and you probably spent a gap year in Thailand using your genitals as currency… This is a wholly unconvincing display of what metal is, and it’s just about as uninteresting as anything gets.
Besides this, the music is actually passable; the vocals remain fairly invigorating (although the subject matter is far from stimulating) and the hooks are there, just in no particular abundance. The biggest offence, however, is how insubstantial the record feels; each track stands in isolation, and whether we’re moving between the sickly sweet mid-section of ‘Beautiful With You’, ‘In Your Room’ and ‘Break In’ or any other part of the album, there is nothing that makes this feel like a singular work, as opposed to just a series of moments. This reason, amongst others, is a huge inhibitor on Halestorm’s shelf life.