There's sunshine after the rain for 'Halestorm' upon the release of their album 'Vicious'

Halestorm are undoubtedly hard workers. The Pennsylvania rockers have played more than 2,500 shows since their inception in 1998.

But it’s taken a toll, surfacing as self-doubt and depression in their fourth studio album, Vicious, which is easily their most personal and unassuming work to date. 

They have a reputation for being the hardest touring band in rock‘n’roll, but as personal and professional clouds hung over them ahead of writing Vicious, such a precedent could have been the reason problems culminated on the LP. “We’re hard on ourselves, for sure,” says guitarist, Joe Hottinger. “Going into the record we had written a bunch of songs and we weren’t excited about them. It felt like we were rehashing what we had already done.

“It was disheartening. We wanted to do a newer version of Halestorm but [still] very us – how do you not make the same thing over and over again? We didn’t know if we could do it anymore.”

The material they had wasn’t the version of Halestorm the band wanted to be. Prompted by their producer, Nick Raskulinecz, Hottinger says they took it back to their roots, just jamming a riff to start with that would eventually become the album’s lead single, ‘Uncomfortable’.

The magic was there the whole time, Halestorm just had to take a step back to be able to tap into it. “Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees,” says Hottinger.

Through all the emotive power of Vicious, there’s a vulnerability, passion and rawness that is new for the outfit. “Lzzy especially,” Hottinger begins of vocalist, Lzzy Hale. “She stepped forward in a big way – we all did but I just love some of the themes she’s talking about, getting truly personal and intimate at times. Heart breaking as well [in] ‘Heart Of Novocaine’, ‘Black Vultures’, what it’s like to be told all the time.

“Like the last record [Into the Wild Life, 2015], there’s people around here saying we made a country record – I wouldn’t know how to play country or write a country song if I had a gun to my head – but everyone’s waiting for us to fail, and she just started addressing that.”

Tangents, like the one Hottinger is on, are good; on Vicious we’re seeing the real side. And Australia’s opportunity to witness this completely honest version of Halestorm presents itself in a very short burst of shows, with Halestorm performing at Download Festival in Sydney and Melbourne this month. 

Sentiment won’t be stripped away by the limits of time, however. “It doesn’t really matter the length of a set,” says Hottinger, “Every time we finish up it feels like we did a whole show, whether it’s a half hour festival set or two-hour headline show, we just put it all out there, especially with a festival.

“There’s four of us on stage and we throw this energy out at a big group of people and you get it back ten thousand fold. It’s exciting, and it’s big fun.

“It’s kind of a preview because we’re coming back this year again because we like Australia and we agreed to do some more stuff – I don’t know if that’s been announced yet but it will be soon so, screw it”

With so many songs not used on Vicious, Hottinger says the next album is well on the way to completion. “An album is a sonic snapshot at any given month or year we’re working on it,” he says. “Lzzy and I have already been writing a bunch because we’ve had a little time off between tours.

“We head to Australia then we’re pretty much out [on tour] the rest of the year so it’s pretty nice to get a month to kinda like, ‘What’s life again? Oh yeah!’”

Halestorm will play Download Festival’s Dogtooth Stage at 9pm on Monday March 11. Head to the festival website for the full lineup.