Tidy set of modern and retro hits gets a shallow, glitzy revamp

Over the last 13 years of Halestorm’s 20 year existence, core siblings Lzzy Hale and Arejay Hale have sandwiched a 6-track covers EP between studio albums, their last three being Into The Wild Life (2015), The Strange Case Of… (2012), and 2009’s Halestorm, with current members Josh Smith and Joe Hottinger.

This bold creative choice has seen the Pennsylvanian hard-rock act cover such tracks as Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Out ta Get Me’, Judas Priest’s ‘Dissident Aggressor’ and even songs by Lady Gaga (‘Bad Romance’), Daft Punk (‘Get Lucky’), and Fleetwood Mac (‘Gold Dust Woman’). With these tracks being spread through Halestorm’s previous two ReAniMate Cover EPs, their third has now arrived, two years after Into The Wild Life. As core member Arejay told the FaceCulture online music guide at the 2016 Dutch Pinkpop festival, “[a covers EP is] a great way to get ideas for different ways of songwriting. Every time we do this, we get heavily inspired by the songs that we learn and work up.”

With The Strange Case Of… LP presenting songs crafted with 80s hard rock heaviness and a modern edge, and Into The Wild Life divisively taking on a significant radio pop sheen, ReAniMate 3.0: The CoVeRs eP perfectly captures the current state of Halestorm, in limbo between these two phases. Choosing a range of covers from 80s stadium classics to some modern alternative rock hits, Halestorm’s musicality and range is rightfully solid, this EP consequentially peaking this year at #1 on the US Hard Rock Billboard charts. Proving that time hasn’t mellowed them, ReAniMate 3.0 is full bore from the get-go, with the incredible voice of Lzzy Hale demanding 100% attention in the opening lines of Whitesnake’s ‘Still Of The Night’. Further punch is added with producer Nick Raskulinecz‘s generous dose of modern-day compression, and a faster groove and heavier tone than the original. For better or worse, this heavier modern edge characterises the album.

In ‘Still of the Night’ the softer dramatic interlude of the song sees Whitesnake’s original rhythmic strings replaced with overdriven guitar; Lzzy’s cathartic cries soaring high. With a vocal delivery and tone anchored firmly in the 80s hard-rock singing styles of artists such as Sebastian Bach, Vince Neil and Jon Bon Jovi, while also drawing comparisons to Chris Cornell, (hence the Soundgarden cover), Lzzy Hale’s strong voice is definitely a love-hate affair. Whilst she performs these revamped tracks perfectly capably and suitably, an increase of subtlety and vocal sensitivity would have made them relate more intimately with listeners.

The same applies with the tone of the performances, though it might be hard for Halestorm to emotionally connect with songs that aren’t their own. And this is where this EP falls quite flat. Whilst the band definitely honour the attack and groove of the original songs, this thematic disconnection with the tracks devalues the covers to mere recitals, rather than artistic re-interpretations of previous meaning. For the songs that require a suitable amount of empathy to be performed properly, namely ‘Fell on Black Days’, ‘Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover’ and ‘Heathens’, Halestorm’s glitzy production, artificially clean performances and lack of conviction render once-impactful tracks as commercial fodder. When covering early Metallica or Joan Jett and the party-centric, kickass vibes of ‘Ride the Lightning’ and ‘I Hate Myself For Loving You’, Halestorm sound much better, as they can simply crank the amps and enjoy themselves. Though in reference to Arejay Hale’s perceived belief for these covers, what’s the ultimate point of listening to the creative team-building exercise of a semi-famous rock band, at the mercy of such well-known, extensively covered songs?

1. Still of the Night (Whitesnake)
2. Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover (Sophie B. Hawkins)
3. I Hate Myself for Loving You (Joan Jett and the Blackhearts)
4. Heathens (Twenty One Pilots)
5. Fell on Black Days (Soundgarden)
6. Ride the Lightning (Metallica)