Sound — 6
Having grown up in a musical family and taking lessons for numerous instruments, it's no surprise that siblings Lzzy and Arejay Hale would go on to form their own band, Halestorm. This aspiration manifested fairly early for the two, and by the time they were 21 and 18, respectively, Halestorm had signed a record deal with Atlantic. Their debut self-titled album in 2009 would derive heavily from classic hard rock, inspired by the likes of Aerosmith and AC/DC, but perhaps most admirably, displayed the strong range of Lzzy's singing voice, helping Halestorm rise above the pack - Lzzy's voice would also result in her collaborating with the likes of Evanescence, Shinedown, Seether, and Lindsey Stirling. Halestorm's follow-up album, 2012's "The Strange Case Of...," took a step further into the metal energy, with stronger guitar solos and even dabbling a little bit in thrash metal, but would also counterweight that energy with more ballad songs, which flaunted the dynamic capabilities of the band, as well as the versatility of Lzzy's voice.
Now, with their third album, "Into the Wild Life," Halestorm continue to experiment with more classic rock influences to broaden their horizons. The timeline of influences stretches even further - from the "Strawberry Fields Forever"-esque melody of "The Reckoning" to the pop rock arrangement of "New Modern Love" - but generally, Halestorm gravitate around inspirations from the '80s, while also easing back on the energy, making a big portion of the album travel in an '80s adult contemporary gear. '80s-style power ballad guitar solos work their way into the outros of the shiny alt-rock cut "Bad Girl's World" and the piano ballad "Dear Daughter," the retro grandiosity of "I Am the Fire" harks back to Bonnie Tyler, and "What Sober Couldn't Say" combines a new wave ballad akin to Spandau Ballet's "True" with Lzzy's country-style vocals.
Halestorm's hard rock side also hovers around the '80s, echoing that of early-era Bon Jovi (in "Amen" and "Apocalyptic") and Joan Jett (in "Gonna Get Mine"), whereas the metal songs on the album feather out on the timeline - "Sick Individual" draws inspiration from Black Sabbath, and the more contemporary metal cut "Mayhem" touts the strongest guitar solo on the album, but the electronica-tinged opener "Scream" feels pretty limp in energy, especially regarding Lzzy's half-hearted chorus chant, making the track title feel like a misnomer.
Lyrics — 7
As a lyricist, Lzzy has banked heavily on the "kicking a-s, taking names" femme fatale archetype (then again, when fronting a hard rock band, who would want to be the opposite of that?), but as Halestorm's sound has started to mature, Lzzy's lyrics have followed suit. Still dealing strongly in female empowerment, her main emphasis in "Into the Wild Life" is more on constructive self-empowerment rather than playing into the endless gender tug-of-war - both "Scream" and "I Am the Fire" are fuel of encouragement to reach your goals, and though "Dear Daughter" and "Bad Girl's World" are tailored to women at face value, the messages of embracing your uniqueness and marching to the beat of your own drum that those songs wield are universally applicable.
Amid the more substantial lyrical matter shown on the album, Lzzy still manages to throw in some take-no-guff bouts of lyrics that call back to earlier Halestorm records, which are hit-or-miss at this point. The rowdy breakup sex of "Apocalyptic," the post-breakup vengeance depicted in "The Reckoning," and the kitschy love letter to rock 'n' roll in "I Like It Heavy" all feel like déjà vu from Lzzy, but she ends up threading the needle between unapologetic femme fatale and substantial message in "Gonna Get Mine," where she aims a barb at misogynist trolls that only want to see her naked ("And everybody wants to know what I got going on below"), which also earns points for tackling the issue of celebrities having nude photos of them leaked ("Naked pictures on my telephone / All my secrets that you weren't supposed to know").
Overall Impression — 6
"Into the Wild Life" has Halestorm aspiring to have their cake and eat it too, in terms of trying out new styles while also keeping a firm grasp on their hard rock sound of yesteryear, but because of the many different plates they attempt to spin, the dualism they conjure on the album is tenuous. Whereas "The Strange Case Of..." was able to play on both poles with strong metal tracks and acoustic ballads, the steps toward a more adult contemporary sound shown in "Into the Wild Life" are duly steps away from their heavier-rocking gear, and the moments when they kick into their heavy-rocking gear in this album feel contrived, containing less spirit than the hard rock tracks in their previous albums.