Let’s round out January with a rock song review, shall we? Today’s review is “Apocalyptic,” the new single from Halestorm.
First impressions: Dirty, heavy, groovy but tough… well now, I do like this.
The music: “Apocalyptic”, we’ve been told, is a “middle ground” between Halestorm’s earlier sound and the sound they’ve taken on their new album, Into the Wild Life. The sheer polished aggression of “Love Bites (So Do I)” and “Mz. Hyde” is gone for the most part, but its spirit remains in the sonic muscle the song carries, not to mention the dual attack of the guitars and Lzzy Hale’s vocals. Instead “Apocalyptic” is a lot looser and drier in sound with a tinge of the blues to its slithering melody. The lead guitar is just filthy, sliding and firing off notes like the cries of a wild animal, while the rhythm instruments carry this nice, grinding little groove. If I’m not mistaken there’s also a dynamic range here that wasn’t present on the last album, which often felt like a wall of noise slamming into you with each chord. Instead there’s a snap to the drums and a muddy crunch to the guitars, so it feels like a band of musicians actually playing together in a room. It’s still way too loud, though, which is a bit of a shame.
The melody is catchy and, as if from the Ozzy Osbourne School of Rock, tends to follow the riff in the verses and bridges, which does have the effect of accentuating the punch of the rhythm. I have to say, I really like Hale’s vocals here as well. That intrinsic ferocity of her voice is still there but it’s dialled back slightly; instead there’s a raw, gritty quality here she hasn’t quite explored before. I don’t want to throw off a creepy stalker vibe here, but it sounds like there’s also a tinge of desperation in the few higher-pitched notes she throws in every now and then, like in the third bar of each verse and the middle-eight, to counter-balance the attitude and confidence. Not a great deal has changed – Hale’s still the sex goddess of previous songs – but she’s never sounded like she actually wanted it as much as she does here. Halestorm have sung about sex before but it’s rarely been sexy as much as it’s been intimidating. “Apocalyptic”, however, is easily the raunchiest thing they’ve ever written.
The lyrics: So it’s another Halestorm sex song. I remember one commenter on the YouTube video complaining about the fact they’d written yet another sex song, but looking back I don’t recall them having that many. There’s “I Get Off“, “Dirty Work“, “Love Bites”, “Mz. Hyde”, “Don’t Know How to Stop“… and those are all the ones that come to mind. If you remember any more, please jog my memory. Yes, please do.
“I wear my nine-inch heels when we go to bed / I paint the colour of my lips blood red.” So we’re still going with the dominatrix aesthetic that’s been prevalent in hard rock culture since, what, the late Seventies? A little overdone, but that’s fine, I guess. I mean, rock ‘n’ roll is all about the glorious illusion, right? Specifically here the illusion that Lzzy Hale would want to have sex with you. I’m betting there aren’t too many male critics of this song.
“When it’s switching up, physical, always slamming doors / You’re a bitch, throwing fits, always waging wars / Me and you, sad but true, it’s not us anymore / But there’s still one thing we’re good for.” Ah, right, so it’s about a relationship gone sour – now we really are in traditional Halestorm territory. And, as usual in popular music, there’s only one thing left that unites these estranged lovers, one primal act of aggression and self-fulfillment that’ll solve their problems, if only for one hot, glorious night: a game of Yahtzee with Antiques Roadshow on in the background. All right, it might not actually be that.
“I’ll give you one last night, so make it twisted / Give you one last shot, go on and hit it / Give you one last time, don’t make me miss it / Baby love me apocalyptic, come on.” The grammar goblin in my chest is giving me heartburn right now. Admittedly the “apocalyptic” descriptor didn’t make a lot of sense until I read it in the context of the preceding lines. Apocalyptic, as in the end of all things or, more specifically, their relationship – if it’s going out, it’s going out with a bang. But it also provides a referent for you to pull in your own images. What do you associate with the apocalypse? Nuclear bombs? Fire in the sky? Riots? The ground shaking beneath your feet? Zombies? Well, apart from that last one this is quite the one-off spin of the wheel they have going here.
“Nothing lasts forever.” Well, except bad credit, but that’s admittedly a far less sexy subject to write a song about.
Verdict: “Apocalyptic” isn’t a quantum leap from their usual style but there’s enough here to suggest that Halestorm are trying something new. Something good, too. 3 out of 5.
Today’s double-up couldn’t be anything else. Well it could be, but it won’t: “Apocalyptic Love” by Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators.