I have this playlist on my phone that I build over the course of a year. It starts as soon as there is more than half a dozen tracks I like released in any January or February. This year it’s called \m/ 2022 (as in horns) \m/. It’s a text emoji Dio horns. I’ve been doing it since 2011 pretty much. Or should I say \m/ 2011 \m/.
The playlist evolves over the 12 months of the year. Some bands do sometimes get 2 tracks on the list but they’re never together and seldom both just tracks off the same album. Maybe a B-Side remix or do over or something. The point is, without going all Nick Hornby on you, playlists have rules that govern them. Especially if you want them to do well. My \m/ playlists do well.
The opening track is a big deal. Has to sound like a proper opening number (Every track in this slight return 2022 in review is on that playlist). This isn’t the opening track. That honour goes to the ‘back in town’ Yeah Yeah Yeahs. They will be reviewed on here in the fullness of time. Before we ring in 2023. And then, y’know…
However Raise Your Horns by Halestorm earned a prodigious place right after Patient Number 9 and before Zeit by Rammstein very early on. I’ve been spinning the playlist so much over the year, those three tracks all sound to me like they belong together as some sort of diary-based rock opera about this foul year of ours. The ebb and flow of sonics, song lengths, intros matching (or clashing) with outros.
Back From The Dead is a full on rock and roll record. Raise Your Horns is it’s big piano ballad moment. Many full on rock records have them. So precision tooled and satisfying of old style big rock and genre trappings is that album, you feel the urge to hold your phone in the air whenever you hear this track in particular. Or… Well, I do at least.
The long hard road Back From The Dead for Lzzy and The Hales started so long ago I actually featured the first release from this album in my previous life. Before being cobbled back together by a mad scientist in his lab, hoisted skyward on a gurney and reanimated by lightning… Before staggering around pulling the bandages from my new mismatched eyes, some time after sunset on all hallow’s eve… Or something.
On the album, that foretold title track as an opener defiantly blends into the grandstanding Wicked Ways with stops, screams and power drops. Then the Nu-Metal tinged Martian death ray riffed Strange Girl seals the deal on a relentless opening triptych.
Brightside pushes side one past it’s opening act with more p-p-pile-driver power tool riffs and a 80’s metal vein of hope in its outsider anthem rock shapes.
The second preview single The Steeple comes next. That big MTV(-2?) moment just 30 years too late for it to actually be a big MTV-2 moment. It’s a corking single. Heavy, hooky and just the right side of devotional anthem to stir things in a most cynical heart. In a just world it would have been one of the biggest rock tunes of the summer.
Side two of Halestorm 2022 is kind of predictable and yet still rather varied and intersting. After the acoustic regret laden ballad of Terrible Things laments all the sick and twisted stuff we normalise everyday to the sound of string arrangements and the highest of high notes, things pick back up in pace. Great big rock songs with titles like My Redemption, Bombshell and Psycho Crazy bristle with ire and ‘fuck the man’ spirit while holding that most Halestorm of qualities. A unifying rabble rousing essence that makes you wanna just… Do Something!
Lzzy’s performance here is world-stage-centre-stunning. The roars, the hip hop stylings (“I got news for all’a you fools!”) the softer inflections, the fourth wall breaking spoken parts. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. There’s no better rock star looking to lead the charge in the modern age than Ms Hyde (I mean Hale).
The album finishes with the track we are here for today. Following the sexual liberation of I Come First and the metallic bruising of Psycho Crazy, Track Ten feels like an oasis of cold beer in a frosted glass after a day at work in a foundry on the smelting line. Lzzy’s previous #RaiseYourHorns campaign has been in honour of mental health championing and support of those who feel isolated, alone or in a struggle for their own peace.
Slip that between perhaps the inventor of Heavy Metal’s final anthem and some German Metal titans and you got yourself a moment. It’s a track I’d be proud to have play over my own end credits.
Let ’em fly.