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‘The Strange Case Of…’: How Halestorm Saved Rock Music
Warner Music
In Depth

‘The Strange Case Of…’: How Halestorm Saved Rock Music

Boosted by the range and power of their frontwoman, Halestorm’s ‘The Strange Case Of…’ album revived a flatlining classic rock genre.

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Classic rock is largely propped up by the legendary bands who have been around for decades. You know the ones: AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses, Aerosmith, Def Leppard, Whitesnake, et al. Tune into any radio station specialising in the genre and you’ll hear an endless rotation of hits from the 70s and 80s. Sometimes they’ll plunder the catalogues of bands big in the 90s for something a bit more, y’know, modern. It’s even more rare to hear a band from this side of the year 2000. By 2012, though, Halestorm had entered the fray, and their second album, The Strange Case Of…, injected new life into a rock scene in need of a saviour.

Listen to ‘The Strange Case Of…’ here.

“We wanted to write something hard and fast and with a lot of energy”

By their own admission, the band had played it safe on their 2009 self-titled debut. As frontwoman Lzzy Hale explained to Rock Confidential in May 2012, “With the first record we were thinking, Does this song have mass appeal? Is the label gonna like it? Will it do anything on radio?” But with a relentless bout of touring under their belts to promote the release, the singer and guitarist had found the gumption to pursue a different approach the second time around. “With this record, we really didn’t think about that stuff at all,” she recalled. “We almost didn’t even have time to!”

With Halestorm’s debut album having peaked at No.40 on the Billboard 200, their record label, Atlantic Records, was keen to capitalise on its success. And that meant heading straight to the studio when the band returned home from touring. “We literally got off tour… had 24 hours to pack and flew straight to LA and started in the studio the next day with a handful of songs,” Hale recalled. “Some of them weren’t even finished.” With time against them, the band had to draw inspiration from wherever they could find it. As it happened, they were more than up for the challenge.

“The amplifiers were still ringing in our ears”

Having just come off tour, Halestorm were still buzzing from their energy-packed live shows. “It went in a few different stages,” Hale explained. “When we first started recording, we were fresh off the road and the amplifiers were still ringing in our ears. We wanted to write something hard and fast and with a lot of energy.” The point of reference was an EP of covers they released earlier that year which fuelled The Strange Case Of…’s supercharged opening track and lead single, Love Bites (So Do I). “That was directly inspired by our time on the road and our covers EP,” Hale confirmed. “We experimented with tempos we’d never experimented with before. One was Skid Row’s Slave To The Grind and the other was Guns N’ Roses’ Out Ta Get Me. We never thought we could pull off tempos like that, and now that we had covered those songs, we decided we needed a song of our own.”

It was a change of pace, but fortunately Halestorm were surrounded by a team who encouraged them to pursue the style that made their live show so electrifying. And it set the tone for the rest of the album. As Hale explained, “A lot of the songs after that were inspired by people we met on the road and the energy we feel live… We really wanted to create that live feel.” And it shows. What The Strange Case Of… became is one hurricane-force rock album, full of catchy hooks, slick riffing and singalong choruses. But as much as arena rock risks sounding polished and formulaic, there’s a venom and fury that underlies the likes of Mz. Hyde and I Miss The Misery, and it comes courtesy of the powerhouse vocals of Ms Hale.

“It was like a whirlwind of creative purging”

In 2012, if girls liked their rock a little harder, it was Hayley Williams that shone as the leading light. Sure, the Paramore vocalist turned the tables in a predominantly male industry by holding a mirror up to the misogyny and sexism ever-present in music. But Hale brought with her a lethal snarl that hadn’t been heard in mainstream rock since Alanis Morissette unleashed Jagged Little Pill’s revenge anthem You Oughta Know. Unlike many of Lzzy Hale’s contemporaries, this bitch bites back. And if You Call Me A Bitch Like It’s A Bad Thing is any indication, it’s a position this bandleader is proud to take. She’s a certified badass

The music itself ranges from a polished and buffed, radio-friendly version of thrash on the aforementioned Love Bites, to a Marilyn Manson-esque industrial stomp on Freak Like Me, the piano balladry of Break In, the pounding thrum of You Call Me A Bitch Like It’s A Bad Thing, the country-blues of American Boys and the fists-in-the-air power ballad of Here’s To Us. The Strange Case Of… is a collection of songs that swings from defiant and empowering to achingly exposed, yet it manages to mesh seamlessly together without breaking its stride.

“The record is very ‘Jekyll And Hyde’”

But all of that is almost irrelevant, as it all falls under the shadow of Hale’s monstrous vocals. This was the first time she’d unshackled her full range and force. As comfortable delivering a gentle croon as she was a venomous growl, here was a woman who could match the power of Robert Plant as seemingly effortlessly as

Stevie Nicks while displaying the raw passion of Janis Joplin. And it’s the switch between self-deprecating ferocity and sensitive vulnerability that fuelled The Strange Case Of….

The disparity was felt during recording. As Hale recalled, “Halfway through, when all the aggressions had settled, we started writing more intimate songs… The floodgate opened and I wrote some of the most personal songs I’ve ever written… The record is very ‘Jekyll And Hyde’. After everything was done it was like a whirlwind of creative purging.”

The dumping of emotional baggage paid off. Released on 10 April 2012, The Strange Case Of… peaked at No.15 on the Billboard 200 and has since been certified platinum for a million sales in the US. The following February, Halestorm became the first female-fronted band to be nominated for – and win – the Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance award at the Grammys, for Love Bites (So Do I). Over a decade later, Lzzy Hale’s status as one of the best frontwomen in rock remained unquestioned, and Halestorm refuse to let up.

Buy Halestorm vinyl at the Dig! store.

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