The Strange Case of … (Best of 2012 — Part 10)

Halestorm

The final album in my Top Ten for 2012 is Halestorm’s The Strange Case of …, on which Lzzy Hale showcases her stadium-calibre rock voice and her split personality (“Mz. Hyde“): just as the album title alludes to Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, the theme here is how a jaded maneater’s tough outer shell (tracks 1-4 and tracks 8-12) encases a true romantic hidden inside (tracks 5-7: the thermonuclear love ballads “Beautiful With You”, “In Your Room”, and “Break In”). This meta-concept album thereby allows Lzzy to showcase her softer side and reveal how her well-rounded, multifaceted rock talent has her destined for mega-stardom.

It’s been a massive year for Halestorm and they’re ending 2012 with a bang! It was just announced that the group and their song ‘Love Bites (So Do I)’ off of their latest album ‘The Strange Case Of…’ were nominated in the Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance category for the upcoming 55th annual Grammy Awards, taking place Feb. 10, 2013, in Los Angeles.

The accolades for Lzzy and her band are well-deserved. Her talent even registered on (my fave) Mike Portnoy‘s radar, as this year Lzzy sang with Adrenaline Mob on their impressive Omertà album, doing guest vocals on the track, “Come Undone” (which is a hilariously deadly reworking of the Duran Duran song).

I had reserved the last slot on my 2012 Top Ten list for Soundgarden’s new album, King Animal. But in the end, the album just didn’t make the cut. Carl has a great review of the album, and his analysis of the lyrics (through the lens of T.S. Eliot!) will no doubt have me revisiting the album in the months to come and reconsidering, since I pretty much paid attention only to the music and not to the lyrics. Hence it was the absence of killer guitar solos on King Animal that led me to give it the boot. That whole anti-guitar solo grunge mentality is too anti-prog in my books, and therefore a fatal flaw.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge Chris Cornell fan, but I like his Audioslave oeuvre the best, as well as his solo work. (Where does Soundgarden ever have the left-field magical moments of Audioslave’s Tom Morello guitar solos?) And I note that Carl’s review of King Animal spends way more time referencing great Audioslave moments than it does King Animal! For me, that was just confirmation that I was right to give Soundgarden the boot from my Top Ten.

For a while, The Cult’s unexpectedly amazing 2012 disc, Choice of Weapon (be sure to buy the bonus track version at the same price), was a strong contender for my Top Ten, thanks to standout tracks like “Lucifer”, “A Pale Horse”, “The Wolf”, and “For the Animals”. Only because The Cult is the band from the past and Halestorm is the band from the future do I give the nod to Lzzy over Ian. But both albums are solid, upper-echelon material.

I also toyed with the idea of putting Adrenaline Mob’s Omertà in the last slot of my Top Ten, because it has some tremendously accomplished metal. Mike Orlando’s guitar solos are astonishing, especially when combined with Mike Portnoy’s drumming. But the album is also a mixed bag. I found that I would carve it up into an EP for my playlists, because the only tracks that could consistently hold my musical interest were “Indifferent”, “All on the Line”, “Feelin’ Me”, “Come Undone”, and “Believe Me”.

So Omertà had to get the boot because it wasn’t solid from front to back. Yet by giving the final slot in my Top Ten to Halestorm, I get the best of both worlds — because Adrenaline Mob still gets paid an indirect tribute by way of my choice, thanks to their own recognition of Lzzy’s amazing talent (via “Come Undone”).

Halestorm

2012 has been a great year for music! A big thank you to all my fellow Progarchists for sharing their musical experiences here, thereby expanding my own.

I’ll see you back here on New Year’s Day, when I will reveal the name of my fave EP from 2012 — since EPs do not count towards the Top Ten list, which (in good prog fashion) I always dedicate to the recognition of the best contributions towards the keeping alive of The Art of the Album (and we all know who wins the top title for 2012 in that regard — Best Album of the Year).

4 thoughts on “The Strange Case of … (Best of 2012 — Part 10)

  1. carleolson

    And I note that Carl’s review of King Animal spends way more time referencing great Audioslave moments than it does King Animal!

    I don’t recall that. 😉 Actually, I mention only lyrics from Audioslave, not music, whereas I do make several points about the good to often exceptional music on “King Animal.” I do like Audioslave, very much, but oftentimes despite the annoying guitar work. In fact, Chris, you and I could have a good ol’ fashioned shootout over the guitar solos in many Audioslave songs, which I find pretentious and gimmicky, on the whole. Morello, to me, is far better as a rhythm guitarist (he is nicely funky, something Thayill never is) than a soloist. It is true that Soundgarden doesn’t usually have true or obvious guitar solos, but that is due (in part) to the band’s purposeful avoidance of what might appear to be showing off or virtuoso noodling, despite Soundgarden being the most accomplished and virtuoso-ish of the “grunge” bands.

    I love a great guitar solo as much as anyone, but there is something unique in how Soundgarden builds a wall of wailing, intense sound, with Thayill’s buzz cut lines and weird air-raid runs. The most prog-ish element of Soundgarden, musically at least, are the very weird and offbeat (ahem) time signatures; many of their songs use two or three different times, and they are rarely conventional. That is partially because Cameron is an incredibly adept and technically keen drummer, but also, I think, because Shepherd is a quite unique and powerful bassist and Thayill builds rhythms that work wonderfully on top and within the rhythms.

    One thing I wish I had done a bit more of in my overly long review was point out how exceptionally varied and eclectic was Soundgarden’s “Down On the Upside” album (1996), which has nearly everything: metal, modern rock, punk, slow songs, weird songs, rockin’ songs. It is a band reaching in every sort of direction. “King Animal”, on the other hand, is an older, reflective band with a renewed and more intent focus, and what the new album lacks in variety, in makes up for in the attention to detail, both musically and lyrically.

    Peace, my good philosopher friend! May the killer guitar solo be ever with you!

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  2. Thanks, Carl! Your well-reasoned views have led me to my first New Year’s resolution: to devote as much care and attention to King Animal as you have (since I have not listened to it as many times as you), and to spend a few weeks revisiting the entire Soundgarden catalogue (from which I have been away for too long). I love this! Thank you! Chris Cornell is one of my all-time favorite vocalists. You have challenged me to rethink my encounters with him, for which I am grateful. Happy New Year!

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  3. carleolson

    Chris: You are too kind, as always. I do fear that readers might get the idea that all I do is listen to music involving Cornell. Which is why I’m now working on my “Favorite Music of 2012”, which I hope will annoy, shock, amuse, and otherwise interest all Progarchists, as many of my choices (gulp) will not be prog albums.

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  4. Both of your reviews are killer! I am enriched! I will say, Soundgarden DID have solos (not having the new record, can’t comment), and in fact one of my favorite rock solos of all time is on “Like Suicide,” beginning around the 5:15 mark.

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