Lzzy Hale’s voice is immense. There is no other way to put it, she really does set the bar high and then vaults it with every performance. Halestorm are a fantastic live band, and great on record. They released their self-titled debut album around 18 months ago and it is well worth a look, however this review is about something more recent.
After a live CD/DVD late last year, Halestorm have released this EP of covers. Six tracks which I can only assume are songs the band loved over the years, and surprisingly it’s six tracks which are very diverse and Halestorm make their own.
Slave to the Grind is a faithful reworking of the Skid Row classic with Lzzy’s voice absolutely nailing Sebastian Bach’s original take. It’s not as heavy as the Skid Row version, but as someone who at the time was shocked at how heavy Skid Row’s second album (‘Slave to the Grind’) was, this is a good thing.
Up second is a truly inspired rock interpretation of Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance which put simply: rocks. It actually shows what a great song the original is, but this version is much more akin to my musical tastes. There is not a lot I can say about it, other than it’s just SO good! The guitar has a fantastic distortion level to it, and the vocals are superb, and yet it retains everything which made the pop version a classic. An inspired and brave cover.
Hunger Strike by Temple of the Dog gets the Halestorm treatment next, and I’m glad to say this sadly underrated classic gets a powerful introduction to a whole new generation. The original may have been lighter in tone, but with Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell trading vocal duties, it has a lot to live up to. Again, the vocals just aren’t a problem, but the key thing here is the excellent reading of the guitar, making it heavier and much more ‘rock’ without losing the beauty of the original.
In my opinion, like The Beatles there is one band you just shouldn’t cover. That’s Guns N’ Roses. Slash’s guitar work and Axl’s inimitable vocal just gel to make Appetite-era Gn’R an untouchable band. So, it’s with trepidation that I wait for the next track to start on my CD player; Guns N’Roses ‘Out Ta Get Me’. First off, it’s not as raw sounding as the original with the guitar being just a little more restrained, though that may well be the production values of 23 years later. Even though Axl’s voice lends itself well to a female vocalist (as previously shown by Fergie Black Eyed Pea singing ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’) the vocals here are still what sounds like an octave lower. This is surprising given the obvious range available, though it works. Somehow the song seems more tuneful, less raw and aggressive. Sadly, with the obviously intentional removal of swearing and slick production it comes off more ‘pop-rock’ and radio-friendly which is a real shame. Still, it’s a version of the song you can let your young niece hear without panicking about what her Parents will say!
The second last song is actually the only track on the EP which I didn’t know and love before this release. The song is Heart’s ‘All I Want To Do Is Make Love To You’, and frankly I have no idea how faithful or strong a cover it is. What I will say though, is that it is currently my favourite song on the EP. Yes Heart were a female vocal rock group, as are Halestorm. Yet Halestorm are far more rock than I ever remember Heart being, so I’d wager this cover matches that creating a strong mid-tempo pseudo-ballad which should be released as a single. Seriously Halestorm think about it, it’s superb.
I said earlier that Guns N’ Roses shouldn’t be covered in my opinion; just like The Beatles. So it’s only fitting that the final track on this EP is by The Beatles. Like other tracks here, it’s a lesser known cut by the band and it’s a very clever choice. Halestorm have taken Abbey Road’s ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’ and – like the standard set by Motley Crue’s cover of ‘Helter Skelter’ – they have very much made it their own. What the band have done here is show us just how ingenious The Beatles were, how before their time and how cross-genre their songwriting was.This is a really strong, heavy and frankly ubiquitous rock song. Lzzy Hale’s vocal is shown off at it’s absolutely best here; reminiscent of the powerhouse live experience. The support from the band is stellar (as in fairness it is throughout the EP) and should make them proud. A future live-staple if ever there deserved to be one.
There is no doubt of the talent within Halestorm. They seem to have it in spades, and seeing them live twice I can absolutely attest to that. They are a great pull and a pleasure to watch. Their debut album is very good, but I prefer the songs live. For me this EP – albeit a collection of other people’s songs – captures what it is about them onstage that I enjoy so much.
Hopefully this stop-gap is just enough to whet appetites and keep us going until they record that second album and continue to grow the success they absolutely deserve.
Amazon Link: Halestorm – ReAniMate
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