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Thursday, 16 April 2015

Reviews: Halestorm, The Gentle Storm, Royal Thunder

Halestorm: Into The Wild Life (Atlantic)

Three albums (and two cover EP's) into their career and Halestorm stand on the precipice of superstardom, adapting their style slightly on their last album to make it more radio friendly, focussing on massive sounding hook laden songs mixed with Lzzy Hale's passionate vocals and obvious sex appeal. As such this third record is aimed squarely at US FM radio with the opening track Scream drenched in electronics sounding like a song that could have come off the last In This Moment album. Once again Lzzy Hale's vocals are amazing full of venom and soul in equal measure, she is definitely the focal point of the band, with her brother Arejay's drums coming a close second as Joe Hottinger's guitar and Josh Smith's bass hold their own through these arena baiting tracks. But it's here we get to the problem, with the band looking upward and towards the future as headliner they have lost a little of the spark present on The Strange Case Of... that album had some solid gold tunes on it but in just the first three songs I was losing interest a little, I Am The Fire is repetitive and ultimately bad songwriting, where as Sick Individual is just a little plain, it's only on the chunky swaggering riff of Amen that things pick up before they mix things up with Dear Daughter which is a little Lady Gagaish as Lzzy pounds away at the keys like a dusky lounge singer in a dark bar somewhere before things get a little Floydian at the end and we go straight into the countrified (with electronic enhancements) New Modern Love which is in fact a little Stevie Nicks. As you can see when they diversify they can still write a good tune at the expense of their hard rock basis, with the exception of the anarchic punkmetal of MayhemGotta Get Mine which has The Black Keys written all over it and I Like It Heavy. I think this album suffers a little with the number of tracks it has, a few could be culled from the 13 on the regular edition (15 on the special edition) to make it a more concise and indeed give the album more impact. There is no doubting what Halestorm are doing, they are trying to play music and make money (something hard to do in the current climate) they are doing this by focussing on their live performance however this means that their album does take huge genre shifts, with only a few choice cuts being sculpted for the stage, which means that there is a lot of filler on this record and in what seems to be trend too many ballads. Still the playing and production is modern and sharp as a pin, fans will love it however if you've never heard Halestorm before start with their previous album. 6/10  

The Gentle Storm: The Diary (InsideOut)

The Gentle Storm is a collaboration between multi-instrumentalist, producer, composer Arjen Anthony Lucassen he of Ayreon, Star One, Guilt Machine, Ambeon and Stream Of Passion fame and Anneke Van Giersbergen frequent Lucassen and Devin collaborator and ex The Gathering. So both of these Dutch musicians come from quality musical backgrounds, because of that I was excited for this project which is based on the diary entries of a couple during the 1600's which was the Golden Age of Dutch naval trade. The story follows the couples lives and details their love story the man's while away at sea travelling to India and the woman's life of pregnancy, illness and eventual death. So tough stuff then with this love story sprawling many years and multiple parts but as with all of Lucassen's creations the payoff is in the musical dexterity and sheer brilliance of the orchestrations something that Arjen has always excelled in. Although it does seem that Mr Lucassen has tried to outdo even himself on this occasion making The Diary a double album with a difference; both discs feature the same 11 songs however the twist is that one is the Gentle version featuring acoustic, folk based interpretations of the tracks fuelled by classical and various world instruments and the second disc is the Storm version which is the pure form symphonic metal that Arjen has always been known for. Both albums are to be taken as separate pieces despite containing the same songs, some stand out on as the Gentle versions with Shores Of IndiaBrightest Light and New Horizon's being the pick of the bunch as their folksy instrumentation (from a 13 strong band) gives the songs their identity, however other songs work better in the metallic setting with Heart Of Amsterdam and The Storm being two examples. Happily all of the songs are strong enough to stand up in both versions in what is a fantastic double concept album, I'd lean to say the Storm version just pips it's sister album, due to this blogs focus but that by no means says that Gentle is the weaker album. Taken together this is an excellent project that is a collaboration of two great talents to make some beautiful music. 8/10     

Royal Thunder: Crooked Doors (Relapse)

Atlantan four piece Royal Thunder have finally gotten around to releasing their second album, their debut CVI came out of nowhere and knocked us here at the MoM off our feet, the band fuse a myriad of styles with big Zep-like riffs, mixing with psychedelic freak-outs and a smidgen of driving alt-rock. So what of Crooked Doors then? Well more of the same thankfully the album kicks off with the sprawling Time Machine which starts off with the quiet/loud dynamic before its trippy, emotive middle section and searing guitar work of Josh Weaver and Will Fiore turn it into a slow burning monster, not an immediate start but certainly a powerful one, as the reverb kicks in on Forget You we get more of the bands power with a doom-laden riff driven by Evan Diprima's dynamic drum work and Milny Parsonz' rhythmic low-end. Together the band have a real sonic power, the songs are perfectly formed and played with exceptional musicianship but unlike many bands Royal Thunder's song writing prowess and knack of fusing genres means that you are taken on a musical journey from the passionate power rock of The Line through the swaying, dusky, soul/psych of Forgive Me, Karma, the dark Glow and the progressive Ear On The Fool shows that the band have a real Jekyll & Hyde nature all tied together with classic influences and Parsonz riotous vocals, this girl can certainly sing! Her voice is not to dissimilar to Mz Hale being able to handle the rockier tracks just as deftly as she handles the slower (and very Zep-like) tracks such as One Day and the double part, emotive, haunting finale The Bear I and The Bear II which ends the album in a serene and portentous manner. Royal Thunder could be on the upward trajectory with this amazing sophomore album! 9/10         

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