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Halestorm

Spearheaded by the PAT BENATAR/LITA FORD/AMY LEE-inspired Elizabeth “Lzzy” Hale, alt-metallists HALESTORM withstood a decade of relative obscurity to become the er… HEART of Pennsylvania. When one thinks of how young Lzzy was when she kicked off her career (aged 13) is astonishing, even more so for her younger sibling, drummer Arejay Hale (aged 10), who were both guided into the business by their bassist-playing dad Roger Hale, who performed alongside them until he passed on the baton six years on from their start-up date in 1997.
Formed in Red Lion, York County, the Hale family alumni (plus lead guitarist Leo Nessinger) had plenty of time on their hands to combine study at school and extracurricular activities, while their sound developed after their slightly amateurish debut EP, `(Don’t Mess With The) Time Man’. Sounding like a religious KIM WILDE, greenhorn Elizabeth and pick-up-sticksman Arejay had a lot to learn in ‘99; ditto ‘01’s follow-on record `Breaking The Silence’.
Joined by lead guitarist Joe Hottinger and bassist Josh Smith, in 2003 and 2004 respectively (father Roger taking gardening leave), the turning point for HALESTORM came when Lzzy and Arejay were turned on to heavy metal. Yes, this was no HANSON on a mission to manipulate pop kids into submission, and Atlantic Records were more than happy to take the word of producer David Ivory. Listening to the larynx of Lzzy on the 5-strong EP, `One And Done’ (cut live at a show in Philadelphia in ’06), she’d come on leaps and bounds from her embryonic teenage years; `It’s Not You’, `The Hand’, `Show Me’, `Blue Eyes’ and `Takes My Life’ right up there with the BENATARs and the WILSONs – and she also played rhythm guitar!
Patience paid off in the end when, in the spring of 2009, their eponymous HALESTORM {*7} set cracked the Top 40, a record displaying power-chord heavy rock in heartfelt aplomb. Premiered on a tour that saw the quartet support AVENGED SEVENFOLD, SHINEDOWN and TRAPT, classic rock was on the agenda for download singles `I Get Off’, `Familiar Taste Of Poison’, `Bet U Wish U Had Me Back’ and the perennial `It’s Not You’.
Much too soon for a concert disc, but indicative of the changing times, LIVE IN PHILLY 2010 {*6} proved just how popular HALESTORM had become in their home state. To test the waters even further, their first in a series of “ReAniMate: The CoVeRs eP” was issued the following March, consisting of six tracks: `Slave To The Grind’ (SKID ROW), `Bad Romance’ (LADY GAGA), `Hunger Strike’ (TEMPLE OF THE DOG), `Out Ta Get Me’ (GUNS N’ ROSES), `All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You’ (HEART) and `I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ (The BEATLES).
Derivative but not drudgeful and faceless like so many of the day’s pseudo hard-rock contenders, HALESTORM certainly had a pop sensibility, and with Lzzy at the helm they had the “Hottest Chick in Metal” – as depicted in the Revolver monthly magazine some time in 2009. Described as the KELLY CLARKSON of hard rock, Lzzy and Co’s sophomore set THE STRANGE CASE OF… (2012) {*7} battled its way into the Top 20 – and more importantly into the UK Top 50 where mentions in Kerrang! were worth plenty dollar signs. Opening salvo `Love Bites (So Do I)’ – a Grammy nomination – was typically menacing and hostile, while Lzzy’s emotions poured out on `In Your Room’. Ditto the ballad `Beautiful With You’ and the gutsy `You Call Me A Bitch Like It’s A Bad Thing’.
`ReAniMate 2.0: The CoVeRs eP’ was worthy of an album chart place at No.40, and record that proved conclusively just what songs the feisty Lzzy was singing in front of the mirror; namely `Dissident Aggressor’ (JUDAS PRIEST), `Get Lucky’ (DAFT PUNK), `Shoot To Thrill’ (AC/DC), `Hell Is For Children’ (PAT BENATAR), `Gold Dust Woman’ (FLEETWOOD MAC) and `1996’ (MARILYN MANSON).
2015’s INTO THE WILD LIFE {*7} took North America, Britain and parts of Europe by the balls; gate-crashing the Top 5 in their home country. Produced by Jay Joyce and preceded by the pounding `Apocalyptic’, Lzzy and her retro-rockers laid down the balance between slick heavy metal and anthemic hard rock, stand-out tracks spiced with AOR were `Scream’, `I Am The Fire’, `Dear Daughter’, `Gonna Get Mine’ and the ‘Sabbath-riffed `Sick Individual’. But had they peaked, only time would tell.
© MC Strong/MCS Apr2015

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