Without darkness, there can be no light.
When we first set out to make our new album, The Bitter Truth, we had no idea of the pain and hardship that the world would soon face. While the planet suffered through the tragedies of COVID, racial injustice and economic upheaval, my band and I were dealing with the aftermath of our own losses, the unexpected passing of my brother, the sudden loss of a child by Tim’s family, and the virtual loss of our guitarist, Jen, who has been literally stuck in Germany, unable to travel to record with us in person in the studio.
Somehow through all these challenges, a theme began to emerge for us as a band. Pushing through is better than giving up.
After touring extensively on our orchestral album Synthesis, we knew we wanted to make new music. In between shows throughout 2019, we set aside time to create together. A few days at my house, a week in the woods, just making use of our time together and getting excited about the seeds that were starting to grow. By the end of that year, we had the foundations of several new songs and the beginnings of many more. After recording four songs with our old friend and producer Nick Raskulinecz in his Nashville studio early last year, we knew we wanted to make the entire thing together. The energy and creativity was electric. Then, all of a sudden, COVID stopped everything. The pandemic turned the world upside down, forcing the album to be done sporadically, and at times separately, throughout 2020. We had to think creatively about how to do pretty much everything from that point on. Almost like it was the first time. There was never question, though, of not continuing.
We had something special in that room when we recorded those first four songs and they carried us through last year. It was a big leap of faith to just go for it with the album and not wait or hold back or have any certainty about when we’d be together again, but we just knew we wanted to release our music and connect with our fans. We needed that connection, perhaps even more than our fans needed us. We wanted to be something in the world that wasn’t a disappointment amid so much other bad news. We wanted to be part of the proof that life would go on.
I never want us to repeat ourselves and I like to allow total freedom in the creative process, so we started experimenting with whatever felt good, taking it at times to a new level entirely, just everything coming from a real, honest place out of the love of music- nothing off-limits. But all those rock shows we had been playing over the past few years really strengthened the roots of the band, and that sound and energy was cathartic. I’m who I’ve always been. Once again faced with darkness, I'm writing to heal. So here we are, naturally, making a brand new fiery chapter of the story we all love. This beautiful truth has been reconfirmed for me- it wasn’t just a phase the first time around, and I wasn’t wasting my time. These sounds come out of my heart when I’m being honest and I’m making music that feels like a reflection of myself. I’m proud and grateful to still have my band after all we’ve been through and all I’ve been through. As much as this album is an evolution, it also feels very full circle.
The title, The Bitter Truth, speaks on one level to the world we live in today, in the belief that we must face reality, no matter how ugly or difficult that is, in order to move forward. But there is also an internal parallel: there can be no healing without first facing the pain. The Bitter Truth, for me, is that life is short and the choice is that I’m not going to waste it. Our mortality is fresh in our minds. This became fuel for our fire after the pandemic, the lockdown, through 2020 and making this album. We decided we weren’t going to let anything stop us. We weren’t going to wait around for the world to fix itself. We were going to put all our focus into finishing the album we started. Find new ways to keep on, make our own videos, whatever it took. This time has been hard, but having the music has been an incredible life-giving outlet for me and for all of us in the band. It was a place to pour our frustrations, our rage, our grief and our love to create a world we had some control over.
Now for some typical bio stuff: They tell me that our first album, Fallen, is one of the Top 5 best-selling albums of the 21st century, and the biggest seller by both a band overall, and a rock act overall, if you’re keeping score. We’ve won two Grammys and earned one of the largest social media followings of any music act (thanks, guys!) Someone wrote that our single “Bring Me to Life” has been a "pop culture touchstone" for the past two decades. It’s still totally weird to me when it comes on over the speakers at the grocery store. These achievements and words of praise are nice but what's more important to me is that our music continues to inspire people to create things. Writers have written books inspired by our songs, fans have created their own anime. Films, music, visual art, even vehicle design. I know what this means because of the artists that have inspired me too. What I’m most touched by is what has grown into an immensely powerful, passionate worldwide fanbase who have a genuine connection with the music- a sacred place where we come together. The Bitter Truth is meant as a gift to you, reflecting hope out of the struggles we all face.
I want people to come away from this album feeling hope and empowerment and strength. Something that inspires me a lot in life is people who have overcome great obstacles - survivors. I hope we can pass on the idea that even when things are impossibly painful life is worth living. Leaning into those darkest, most challenging moments, facing them and finding we’re not alone in them, makes us real. Makes us strong enough to take them on. And it brings us together, if we let it, in a deeper appreciation of the light... and the truth. Thanks for the memories. Now let’s go make some new ones.
Self-doubt and depression clawed at the edges of Lzzy Hale’s mind when it came time to pen Halestorm’s fourth album, a follow-up to 2015’s Into The Wild Life. The musician didn’t feel like she was where she needed to be, both professionally and personally. When she and her bandmates, Arejay Hale, Joe Hottinger and Josh Smith, began writing, Lzzy wasn’t even sure who she was. “I kept thinking, ‘Can I still do this?’” she says. “I went down a lot of rabbit holes, and I’m my own worst critic. I needed to get over a lot of internal hurdles during this writing and recording process. This record was about overcoming inner demons.”
The band began writing, but the first batch of songs didn’t feel quite right, so Halestorm scrapped it and started over. And in the end, Vicious represents Halestorm’s most personal and most inventive album, a deeply lived-with collection of songs teaming with genuine heart and soul. It’s also how Lzzy got her groove back. “I don’t think there was any other way for me to get through that difficult time than to write about it,” she says. “This record was like therapy.” The album was recorded with producer Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Alice In Chains and Rush) at Nashville, TN’s Rock Falcon recording studio, and the producer, with whom the band had previously worked with on their 2017 covers EP ReAniMate 3.0: The CoVeRs eP, pushed each musician to a new place musically. Each song went through five or six versions, and ultimately carry the listener on a journey, emphasizing the band’s strengths while revealing a dynamic evolution.
“Nick pushed us from 10 to 11,” Lzzy says. “He pushed us mentally and physically. There are some things on this record that I didn’t think were physically possible for both myself and my bandmates. It was really exciting to see that happen for the first time in the studio. To be able to still surprise each other like that – and to surprise yourself – is no small feat.”
One of the main goals in the studio was to capture real, human moments within the music, the sorts of unexpected instances that occur onstage. In recent years, Halestorm has introduced improvised flashes into their live sets with the idea of creating controlled chaos between the more orchestrated songs. The music on Vicious embraces this sensibility. The musicians worked to ensure that every song had its own dynamic feeling, both overall and within each verse. “It wasn’t just about looping the same thing over and over again,” Lzzy notes. “The idea was: Where can we take this that’s not predicable?”
The resulting album, which was culled from over 20 recorded tunes, solidifies everything Halestorm stands for as a band. It’s about empowerment, an ideal that the musicians have encouraged for years, and the songs urge you to be unapologetically yourself. Ultimately, it’s not just about being strong and taking on the storm – but also about how you rise above that storm. The album’s title comes from “Vicious,” a gritty, surging rock number that was written during the last moments of studio time. The song features the line “What doesn’t kill me makes me vicious,” a rallying cry to overcome any obstacles. “It’s about being strong and fierce,” Lzzy says. “The climate of the world right now is always seeping in, so we wanted it to feel really positive and empowering.” “Uncomfortable,” one of the first songs written for the album, has a similar tone, featuring a rapid-fire verse and impressive vocal licks on the chorus. “You can’t please everybody as much as you may want to try,” Lzzy says of the song. “By being yourself you may make people uncomfortable. I saw a lot of our fans struggling with that. This song is saying that it’s okay to not make everyone happy all the time. You can be yourself and that’s okay. And, in fact, you should be proud of that.”
References to Halestorm’s fans and Lzzy’s constant interactions with them online or on Twitter thread through the album. The musician, who calls the band’s fanbase “our comrades in this crazy life,” wanted to drop Easter eggs into the lyrics, reminding longtime listeners of past conversations or instances in Lzzy’s personal life they’ll likely remember. “I feel like our fans deserve that type of openness from us at this point,” she says. “The love they’ve given us comes full circle.”
Since their inception in 1998, Halestorm have toured extensively with a diverse variety of artists, including Eric Church, Avenged Sevenfold, Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie, ZZ Top and Evanescence. They’ve played around 2,500 dates around the world to date, and performed at festivals like Taste of Chaos and Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar Festival. The band scored a Grammy for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance in 2013, and Lzzy was named the “Dimebag Darrell Shredder of the Year” at the Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards in 2016. Both Halestorm and The Strange Case of… were certified Gold, further evidencing Halestorm’s massively supportive fanbase. Halestorm have also made history: “Love Bites (So Do I),” the hit single from The Strange Case of… ascended to No. 1 at Active Rock radio in the U.S., making Halestorm the first-ever female-fronted group to earn the top spot on the format.
Today Halestorm exists as a beacon of hope and inspiration for musicians, particularly female musicians who want to brave the challenges of the music industry. Lzzy has been a pioneer in rock and proven that women have a place on the stage. Every night on tour, women – and men – in the audience can look to her and realize they too have the power to carve out their own path. Younger musicians admire her the same way she grew up admiring artists like Joan Jett and Stevie Nicks. “They helped me feel like I could do it, and I hope I’ve done the same for women today,” Lzzy says. “Trying to be my best self and not trying to be anything I’m not and being unapologetic feels like a good message. I feel a lot of responsibility to keep upholding that. I’m just trying to be the best me.”
Two decades into an accomplished career, Halestorm represents the results of true passion and hard work. The band has out-survived many of its peers and the musicians are still having fun after all this time. Vicious is evidence of a group of artists who refuse to ever plateau.
“This music chose us and we’re just hanging on,” Lzzy says. “Our greatest accomplishment is that we’ve been the same members for over 15 years and we’re continuing to make and release music. We want to always try new things. We’re still extremely hungry and open to opportunities, and we’re hungry to prove we deserve to be here. We’re so lucky to still be a band and have people care about our music. And there’s still so much more to do.”
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