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Album Review

Lizzy Hale, the frontwoman for Halestorm, has only a few contemporaries these days. You might think of her as P!nk's little sister, or maybe Joan Jett's daughter. She sounds like '80s soft-metal acts Vixen and Lita Ford fused with the grittier, edgier attitude of Amy Lee in Evanescence. And then there's the Taylor Momsen connection, but I'll save that comparison for later.

On the attitude-heavy effort Into the Wild Life, Hale sometimes channels her volcanic passion into championing appropriate pride, self-respect and personal empowerment for those who feel disenfranchised (especially women). But there are darker waters here that she likes to swim in as well.

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On "I Am the Fire," Hale questions her fortitude ("Am I brave enough?/Am I strong enough?"), but eventually counters those doubts ("I promise to myself/Alone and no one else/My flame is rising higher"). She refuses to be chained to lingering insecurities ("Shackled by the ghost/Of what I once believed/That I could never be/ … Won't let the past decide my fate").

"Dear Daughter" delivers a poignant message of self-respect to Hale's future offspring ("Hold your head up high/ … Never lose yourself/Remember that/You're like nobody else"). She also vows, "Stand or fall, I will be right here/And after all, I will be right here/For you." "Bad Girl's World" similarly encourages women to be themselves ("You'll be OK if you be yourself and no one else") and not to worry about critics they intimidate in the process ("The real truth is they're scared because you're brave"). "Scream" splits the difference between "don't tread on me" determination …

Objectionable Content

… and threatening anarchy ("All you movers and shakers/Freaks and hell-raisers/We're climbing over your walls/ … Kicking down your door"). Likewise, "self-confidence" means rejecting forgiveness on "I Am the Fire." And Hale's encouragement to stand strong on "Bad Girl's World" is ultimately undermined by the idea that strength is necessarily wed to rebellion ("We runnin' a bad girl's world, bad girl's world, bad girl's world, bad girls/All you rebel babies/And you pretty thing with the dirty mouth").

"Sick Individual" repeatedly proclaims, "'Cause I'm a sick individual/And I'm doing this thing called whatever the f--- I want, want, want/I'm unusual/Ain't taking no s---, gonna drink this drip 'til I'm gone, gone, gone." And in that same hedonistic and misguidedly individualistic territory is "Amen," which brazenly announces, "Gonna hear me say/It's/My life/My love/My sex/My drug/My lust/My god, it ain't no sin/ … Can I get an amen?/My grace/My church/My pain/My tears/My hurt/My god, I'll say it again/Can I get it?/Can I get an amen?" That song also tells us, "Life has gotta kill/faith is gonna blind/Hope is gonna fade/the truth is gonna lie."

Lizzy says she has to be intoxicated to tell an ex what she really thinks of him on "What Sober Couldn't Say." Affirming any kind of unconventional romantic relationship a listener might want to claim, "New Modern Love" says, "I've got a forbidden love/I'm not giving it up/ … I've got an uncommon love/I'm not giving it up." Hale tells critics of this relationship, "I don't care if you don't want it/ … I don't care if you don't get it/ … You can't rewire these circuits any other way." Then she spits, "Step out of your bubble and/Maybe you will find/Something that'll save you," even as she explicitly rejects any and all traditional mores ("Your old familiar logic is poison on your lips").

"Gonna Get Mine" talks about hiding "naked pictures on my telephone." And she blackmails an ex who might release those pics by telling him she's also got a compromising video of him ("But I sleep fine every single night/'Cause I got a film tape that you will never find"). All in all, it's a sordid song, as is "Apocalyptic," which is about "end-of-the-world break-up sex." Hale says that's the only thing left of a couple's fragmented relationship ("There's still one thing we're good for"), and that their violent trysts include spanking, biting and clawing. On "Sick Individual," Lizzy teases a would-be sexual conquest with, "Gonna have my way with you."

"A little mayhem never hurt anyone/Where am I gonna get some/ .. I wanna feel the chaos," pines "Mayhem." And album closer "I Like It Heavy" celebrates "Satanic" old-school heavy metal clichés ("I got a demon in my soul and a voice in my head/ … Screaming, 'Hallelujah, m-----f---er, take me to church'/ … I love to crank it up/Make it thump/And evil to the core/Headbanging in the pit/And throwing my horns/ … Since I was 13 years old, I've had my fist to the sky").

Summary Advisory

In an interview with loudwire.com, Lizzy Hale says of her band's tour with fellow rock rebel grrl Taylor Momsen (of The Pretty Reckless), "I know we’re going to be inspiring a lot of young little girls, which is amazing. We’ve seen so much of that in the past couple of years. Lots of girls coming to rock shows and really identifying themselves with people like myself and Taylor."

Which should honestly be scaring the parents of those "young little girls" half to death. There are some genuinely inspirational exhortations on Into the Wild Life. But it's never long before the wild gets its way as Hale and Co. recklessly stir up another storm of self-indulgence and immoral escapades.

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Debuted at No. 5 on the mainstream album chart and No. 1 on the rock chart.

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April 14, 2015

On Video

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Adam R. Holz

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