(AP) -- Halestorm, "Vicious" (Atlantic)
"Vicious" comes five years after Halestorm's Grammy-winning hit "Love Bites (So Do I)" became the group's standing claim to mainstream fame. Produced by Nick Raskulinecz, who has worked with bands like Foo Fighters and Alice in Chains, "Vicious" is a jump in sonic variety since the band's third full-length album, "Into the Wild Life," topped the rock charts in 2015.
The new album stays true to the band's long-standing creative elements. The cryptic but assertive attitude of Lzzy Hale's diverse vocal range and raunchy guitar riffs team up well with her brother Arejay's locomotive percussion, Joe Hottinger's sharp guitar work and Josh Smith's thumping bass walks.
On "Vicious," the group takes their raw and abrasive guitar sound up a notch with more polished, virtuoso axe-playing.
It's also worth noting that Lzzy's vocals really dazzle on this one. The frontwoman's ferocity seems to embody the vocal stylings of metal legends like Ronnie James Dio and Lemmy from Motorhead only with her truly distinct Halestorm touch.
The four-piece starts it out even-handed by summoning the forces of nature in "Black Vultures," painting a sonic picture of flying scavengers circling the sky. The song rotates between its flashy modes of thrash to more melodic sensibilities while Lzzy unabashedly wails words of survival.
"Uncomfortable" may be one of the album's strongest tracks. The song starts out as a shredder with a rhythm that chugs behind chunky guitar riffs before Lzzy spits her spiel like fire following an illuminated bridge that adds nuance to a catchy chorus. It's an easy head-banger that doesn't lose intensity even during its more pop-heavy parts.
But the band also knows how to change a pace when it comes down to it.
"Conflicted" is an ode to indecision, set by a grinding mood in a slower tempo while emphasizing the cleaner, rootsy-rock guitars. Lzzy gets outwardly sensual on "Do Not Disturb," while the final track, "The Silence," ends the album on an audibly lighter note as an acoustic ballad to a love lost.
While "Vicious" does contain a share of fillers, it doesn't fall short of what a solid metal album should do -- beat the heck out of traditional musical niceties with powerful sonic blasts and metaphorical fists of tough, lightning-fast rock 'n' roll.