Live music is back, thankfully, but the pandemic had a massive effect on the music industry. Touring was non-existent for a long time, and that down time not only had financial effects on artists, but also had an impact on their lives in general. Many artists channeled those experiences, both positive and negative, into writing new music, and that's what Halestorm's Lzzy Hale did for the band's new studio album Back From the Dead.
"We started writing this album about three months B.C. (Before COVID)," Hale reveals. "Once we went into lockdown and were unable to perform and tour, I fell into a dark place and something of an identity crisis. This album is the story of me carving myself out of that abyss. It is a journey of navigating mental health, debauchery, survival, redemption, rediscovery, and still maintaining faith in humanity."
The opening title track exemplifies overcoming darkness and depression, emphasizing strength and "coming back from the dead alive." In addition to a powerful message of redemption, the track has a singalong chorus and memorable riffs. There's a reason it became Halestorm's sixth number one rock single.
The one-two punch of the title track and the heavy "Wicked Ways" gets the album off to a strong start. The pace of "Strange Girl" is slower, but the intensity doesn't wane. While Hale's pipes deservedly draw a lot of attention, the record's guitar work by her and Joe Hottinger deserves recognition.
The album covers a variety of emotions. "The Steeple" is a rousing, uplifting song that should quickly become a live staple, while the ballad "Terrible Things" is more introspective and melancholy. There's also plenty of musical variety, from heavy riff-driven songs to groovy mid paced numbers. They also skillfully mix good old hard rock with modern elements and atmosphere.
This album also flows very well. On a few previous releases they have put two ballads back to back. And while the songs on their own may be very good, to me it hampers the ebb and flow and slightly diminishes the overall effect. That's not the case this time around.
One of the album's highlights is the closer "Raise Your Horns." It's a bit reminiscent of "Here's To Us" from 2012's The Strange Case Of… in terms of its attitude. Piano accompanies Hale's most varied vocal performance on the record. It's a great balance of power and emotion and a memorable way to end the album.
Like 2018's Vicious, Back From the Dead was produced by Nick Raskulinecz (Mastodon, Evanescence, Korn), with assistance this time around from Scott Stevens (Shinedown, Daughtry). This album does a better job of getting closer to the energy and passion of the band's live shows than the last one did. It's heavier and less polished.
Like their 2009 self-titled debut, Back From the Dead has 11 songs, a streamlined effort of less than 40 minutes with no song exceeding four minutes in length. And while they all won't be number one singles like the title track, the overall song quality is strong from beginning to end. Halestorm's reign as one of hard rock's most successful bands shows no sign of waning.