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  • Vanessa Siebrass

Album Review: "Maleficent" - Halocene


Photo: Halocene via Spotify


Formed in 2008, Halocene is comprised of Addie Nicole (vocals), Brad Amick (vocals, guitar), and Joe Polizzi (drums). Hailing from Phoenix, Arizona, the trio quickly built a reputation, touring the country from coast to coast. Halocene has opened for acts such as Fall Out Boy and Blink 182 and rocked for the audience of Van's Warped Tour. Halocene is unsigned, and the band is 100% self-made, with Brad serving as producer. The band creates and manages its videos, music productions, and social media presence. Halocene has gained a strong following on both YouTube and Twitch, regularly providing content for both platforms. Some of the band's collaborations include artists such as Lauren Babic, Violet Orlandi, and First to Eleven.


TRACKLIST


Maleficent

Unholy

Hold Me, Help Me

Closer

Repent

Running Up That Hill

The Mirror


Halocene is an exceptionally prolific band, with "Maleficent" as their twenty-second release. Although all releases are noteworthy events, "Maleficent's" is particularly poignant, as this is the last foreseeable album that will feature Joe Polizzi. On May 22nd, the band announced they had decided to part ways with the drummer. Refreshingly, neither drama nor animosity fueled Polizzi's departure. The decision was primarily made due to Addie and Brad relocating to Nashville earlier this year. With the band members so far apart, it had become challenging to stream enough on Twitch for it to remain sustainable for Polizzi. Addie has indicated that although Halocene has hired a drummer for the tour, the band has no intention of replacing Joe.


Track #1 - Maleficent


The EP's title track is a no-holds-barred, original tune that sets the standard for this musical journey. The band shared that this song is meant to help the listener find their voice, be authentic to themselves, and embrace who they are, regardless of the negative feedback from naysayers. That message is made abundantly clear in the song's opening: 'Sit down, shut up, be a good little girl/Hate me, bait me, will I ever fucking learn/Wit's end, revenge, now it's time to watch it burn/Beg me, mercy, but you'll get just what you've earned...' What struck me the most when I first heard this song is how much Brad has grown and improved as an artist - the transformation is remarkable. His vocal delivery and guitar playing are stronger and more polished on this album than in previous Halocene offerings.



Track #2 - Unholy (Sam Smith, Kim Petras cover)


Putting their familiar melodic rock/metal twist on this Sam Smith hit, Halocene nailed this cover. While remaining true to the spirit of the original, the band also managed to make this tune their own. Superb, clean drum work from Joe and incredible guitar riffs from Brad make this rendition easily identifiable as an offering from Halocene. The musical elements work very well, allowing Addie's voice to take center stage while providing a backdrop comprised of a rich tapestry of sound. About halfway through the track, Brad's screaming vocals offer another layer of depth and additional grit.



Track #3 - Hold Me, Help Me


Another hard-hitting original track, "Hold Me, Help Me," starts with Addie's alluring, emotion-laden vocals. Written during what Addie refers to as some dark times in her life, this song seems to address an individual from the singer's past. 'I don't wanna make you angry/I don't wanna let you down/I don't know why my mind's so heavy/But I can't take the pain anymore/Confusion, subhuman, never whole/Delusions took their toll and broke my soul...' The thought of disappointing this person became more and more taxing until she eventually had no choice but to sever the relationship to preserve her mental health. Brad's answering vocals, 'My secrets, I can't keep them anymore/My regrets took their toll, my heart's gone cold,' seem to suggest the other party's regret in the dissolution of the relationship.



Track #4 - Closer (NIN cover featuring Lauren Babic and Kayla King)


Since NIN's "Closer" was a formative song in my teenage years, I initially had some reservations when I saw that Halocene had decided to tackle this iconic tune. However, upon my first listen, I realized my apprehension was unnecessary. Addie, Lauren Babic, and Kayla King deliver impeccable vocal performances here. Each songstress has her unique vocal style and approach, and weaving them together into a song makes for a dynamic performance. In particular, Lauren's heavy, growled vocals add a dimension that rounds out the tune. If you're an anti-cover purist and are firmly, nostalgically attached to the original, this may not be the track for you. However, if you have an open mind regarding covers, I suggest you check out this version.



Track #5 - Repent


Addie indicates that "Repent" was written for survivors of abuse, those who weren't believed when they spoke up regarding their experiences. Inspired by events endured by Addie's mother, "Repent" is the band's way of extending support and solidarity to those who have gone through or are currently facing similar circumstances. Starting with self-reflective and somber vocals, the song's tone shifts to a reclamation of power, defiance, and rage that provides a cathartic experience for the listener. "Do you regret it?/'Cause I can't forget it/Repent, get on your knees and beg/Somewhere in there, you remember/You know what you did/Repent, get on your knees and beg...' Brad's screamed vocals work particularly well here, serving as the perfect emphasis and enhancement.



Track #6 - Running Up That Hill (Kate Bush cover)


One of the shining moments on this EP is, without a doubt, this cover of Kate Bush's classic 1985 hit. Written to depict the follies that can occur in communication between people, Bush explains that the song invites the listener to put themselves in another's shoes, to see things from their perspective, and to gain a deeper understanding. There is just something so lovely and vulnerable in Addie's vocals here, especially toward the beginning of the song, that makes this track incredibly poignant. The band's approach to this cover, with its reduced tempo and uncharacteristically subdued music, is phenomenal, allowing Addie's voice to soar and serve as the focal point. The original will always have a special place in my heart, but for me, this modernized take on Bush's coming-of-age tune surpasses the original.



Track #7 - The Mirror (featuring Violet Orlandi)


The EP's conclusion finds Halocene teaming up with fellow artist Violet Orlandi on this original song. With a video rich in religious symbolism, this song depicts how individuals in positions of authority can disparage, shame, and oppress others for not conforming to what they believe to be 'correct.' This song calls out the behavior of these people, who often abuse their power by using their perceived moral superiority as a metaphorical bludgeon. Opening with, 'Do you bleed?/Take the name of God/You believe/You're above us all/You are not a saint at all/Pushed me up against the wall...' the song's message is impossible to miss. Addie and Violet deliver powerful performances here; their voices work well together. However, Brad's gritty background vocals add another layer of subtle complexity.



Despite containing just seven tracks, Maleficent packs an undeniable punch. Its combination of original songs and covers of iconic and beloved tunes creates a satisfying balance for fans. With immense talent, creativity, and seemingly boundless ambition, Halocene knows exactly what their fans want and never fails to deliver. The "Maleficent" tour kicks off September 7th in Columbus, OH - shows are quickly selling out, so snag a ticket while they're still available. (I will attend their September 29th show in Lincoln, NE, so stay tuned for that review in October!) If you cannot attend, or live gigs aren't your thing, I recommend you check out the album and explore the rest of Halocene's back catalog.


Written Vanessa Siebrass



*Copyright not intended. Fair Use Act, section 107.

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