The fourth album to come from Pennsylvania hard rock powerhouse Halestorm is an aptly titled one. Vicious triples down on the searing riffs and biting quips that made their early releases turn heads at a mile a minute, while further accentuating the pristine production techniques that peaked on 2015’s Into The Wild Life. It’s the kind of album bands spend decades trying to write, one that encapsulates the full scope of their talents in an ambitious, but not obnoxious parcel. A magnum opus, if you will.
“Since the beginning, we’ve been chasing this dragon,” says frontwoman Lzzy Hale. “We’ve been trying to exude the magic that happens to us naturally onstage as four bandmates, and we’ve been trying to capture that on record—without doing a live record—for about four albums now.”
It was crucial for the band that they slay that elusive dragon, as recent outings had seen Halestorm step further away from their scuzzy dive bar roots and into the bright chaos of the mainstream pop-rock world. But a shift in energy brought them back to Earth, as Hale affirms.
“We kind of found our mojo again as bandmates. It felt like we went back in time to 2003, when we first met and we were starting to jam in our parents’ basements. So for me, I can truly say that [Vicious] is the most ‘Halestorm’ record we’ve ever done, because you can really hear the respect for everybody’s space.”
Making this milestone even sweeter for Hale is the languid swamp her band trudged through to reach it. “We started writing for this record about six months before we stepped foot into the studio,” she says. “We wrote a whole bunch of songs on the road, and when we started listening through them to decide which ones would make it onto the record, we realised that we didn’t actually like any of them. It felt like we were trying too hard to please everybody but ourselves. Some of it was just an obvious grab for radio airtime, or stuff we were writing to make the label happy.”
This led to the foursome making a last-minute decision to scrap over an entire album’s worth of demo material. “We threw all of those songs away and went into the studio with almost nothing,” says Hale. The studio they retreated to was a far cry from the ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll’ vibe that seeps through every crack on Vicious—rather, the group found inspiration in isolation, getting back to nature as a means to rejuvenate as a band.
“It was this very small studio out in the woods of Tennessee, so there was nobody around for miles, and we just set up our amps and microphones and recording equipment in this very small cabin. Our producer, Nick Raskulinecz, he basically said, ‘I want you to come in here every day, just the four of you guys, and jam until you’ve got something.’ So that’s what we did, every day.”
Raskulinecz ended up being crucial to the band finding their feet on LP4, as he brought a notably laidback attitude to the fold. “I think he was the first producer we’ve worked with that I can honestly say has seen us live more than once,” Hale says. “He’s been a fan of Halestorm for years, and we were friends for years before we decided to work with each other. So when we thought we had an idea that really rocked, he would stop us and be like, ‘Oh, no, no, no. I’ve seen you guys live. I know you can sing harder. I know your brother can be crazier. I know you guys can play louder.’ He just pushed us to the edge and really kept us in the fast lane. We ended up writing the record quite selfishly because of that, because we didn’t really have anything in mind other than whatever got us the most excited in the heat of moment.
“As far as I can tell, the difference between this record and the last three is that all the emotions that were happening were all very fresh,” Hale adds. “And you can tell because we were recording the songs as those things were happening. So any type of excitement that we had in the creative process—whether it was a guitar riff, or maybe lyrically, or something going on with my little brother [Arejay Hale] on the drums—you can actually hear that in real time. Because we weren’t just writing a song, then leaving it for a couple of months, then finally recording it after already getting bored of the idea. The excitement is still there on the surface, and I think that’s what I’m most proud of.”
Vicious is out now via Warner Music.