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Godsmack + Halestorm & Monster Truck at Comerica Theatre
October 16, 2019 @ 7:00 pm - 11:30 pm
According to Greek mythology, the phoenix absorbs new life through rising from the ashes of its predecessor.
By the same token, we tear down the relics of the past in order to make way for the innovations of the future. As every rebirth requires reinvention, GODSMACK—Sully Erna [vocals, guitar], Tony Rombola [guitar], Robbie Merrill [bass], and Shannon Larkin [drums]–continues a similar cycle on their seventh full-length and debut for BMG, When Legends Rise.
Released in April 2018, When Legends Rise features the multiplatinum four-time GRAMMY® Award-nominated Boston bastion of hard rock raising its voice louder than ever on their first album in four years. The critically acclaimed 11-song collection, fueled by the #1 rock song and video for “Bulletproof,” plus the title track “When Legends Rise,” entered the Billboard Top 200 album chart in the top ten (#8), with four #1 placements on other charts: Top Rock Albums, Top Hard Music Albums, Top Independent Albums and Top Alternative Albums.
Following the album’s release, GODSMACK launched a 45-city co-headlining tour with Shinedown. The run started with a six-week outdoor amphitheater tour kicking off July 22 and included stops in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Dallas, Atlanta and New York. The trek continued into the fall with arena shows and festival performances before concluding with a headlining slot at the sold-out Aftershock festival on October 13. The band will return to the road in 2019 with dates in the UK, Europe, North America and beyond.
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.”
The term Rock n’ Roll gets thrown around pretty haphazardly. One can go as far as stating it’s been bastardized to the point of being unrecognizable, ironically shouted on stages worldwide, and classified dead or MIA by the very musicians that once upheld its standard.
Enter Monster Truck. There’s something comforting about a band name that delivers exactly what you expect to hear. Born in 2009 from the ashes of various Canadian Indie bands, Monster Truck began as a sonic affront to the very industry its members were bred from. After feeling more like cogs in the music industry machine, Jon Harvey (bass & lead vocals), Jeremy Widerman (guitar & vocals), Brandon Bliss (organ & vocals) and Steve Kiely (drums & vocals) broke free to forge their own path, answering only to themselves. “It was admittedly a bit selfish from the get-go as we only were looking to please ourselves,” laughs Widerman. Their unabashed approach to making and performing music became infectious. “We just wanted to mix all of our favorite hard rock, punk and classic rock favourites into something raw and basic,” states Widerman, almost as if to suggest that no one had done it to his liking yet. The band was doing something right. A ground swell of regional fans quickly began rushing to any local venue to see the band perform live. Rock n’ Roll is clearly not dead.Offers began to pile up for Hamilton, Ontario’s prodigious sons, and the band soon realized they had to make a decision to jump in hip deep and take the record label and tour offers more seriously. “The decision was probably easier than I’d like to admit,” adds Widerman, suggesting they were probably all kidding themselves thinking they weren’t willing to make sacrifices once again in an attempt to make music for a living. What started as a fun and albeit ‘selfish’ musical side-project, quickly gained momentum and took on a life of its own. Monster Truck self-released a self-titled EP produced by Gus Van Go & Werner F (The Stills, Preistess, Hollerado) in 2010 and followed up with The Brown EP (2011) produced by Eric Ratz (Billy Talent, Cancer Bats, Three Days Grace) on Indie powerhouse Dine Alone Records. The Brown EP aggressively showcased the band’s ability to keep a firm grasp in the classic roots that enabled them, while staying contemporary and true to their vast influences. Singles “Seven Seas Blues” and “Righteous Smoke” became runaway hits reaching Top 10 on Canadian Rock radio and true to their notorious maxim “Don’t F*ck With The Truck”, the band hit the road with a vengeance. Tours included a 2011 cross-Canada sold-out run with The Sheepdogs. Additional tours followed in 2012 when Monster Truck was handpicked to open for Slash on his North American tour, as well as sold-out dates in support of legends Deep Purple.
After an unexpected, yet highly successful year of relentless touring, Monster Truck returned home hell bent to record a full-length album. Over the course of 2 months, the guys put together 12 original songs showcasing not only their determination to continue churning out heart-pounding rock tracks, but that also highlighted another dimension to the band’s songwriting and performance. The result is their debut full-length LP aptly titled Furiosity.
Produced once again by JUNO-nominated Eric Ratz at Vespa Studios in Toronto and Echo Mountain Studios in Asheville, NC, Furiosity showcases Monster Truck’s ability to seamlessly integrate influences from grunge and punk era greats that they love so dearly with alt-sounding vintage rock. The resulting album remains anchored in grooves, yet propulsive and volcanic, fueled by frontman Jon Harvey’s colossal vocal delivery.
The album impressingly runs the gamut from crushing first single “Sweet Mountain River” which features a highly infectious chorus juxtaposed against a killer riff, to tracks like “The Lion” and its definitive old-school, boogie-rock vibe. “While the bulk of songs were written and executed in fairly quick fashion, tailoring the pace and fine tuning the transitions took longer than usual,” says Widerman of the writing process. “We really wanted the songs to take the listener on an exciting journey.” Gems like “Old Train” featuring epic gang vocals were in fact kept under wraps from the producer and the label until the band reworked them to their liking while “Power of the People” — a Rage Against The Machine inspired track — is a commentary on a society in turmoil and an anthem for those who wish to band together and make a difference.
The band intentionally challenged themselves with “For The Sun”, spending more than a year playing the song live in order to perfect it. Slower-paced and with thought to ensuring every moment was well-crafted and building in intensity, Widerman spent 2 days in the studio just recording the intro and solos leaving other members of the band to wonder whether he would ever be satisfied with the end result. Finally, last minute addition “My Love Is True” shows a more soulful side of Monster Truck, and is another shining example of how even a down tempo song can shake you to your core.
The constant show regiment and recording process is sharpening the band’s delivery and there’s no doubt that anyone still interested in original and authentic rock music will be compelled to pay attention. Monster Truck will continue doing what they do best, steamrolling from town to town leaving legions of fans in their wake.