When Orange County hardcore band Eighteen Visions ended their 11-year run in 2007, frontman James Hart had mixed feelings. He was disappointed but excited by the prospect of starting anew. Since the 2004 album Obsession, Hart had been pushing the band in a more hard rock direction, and some members had pushed back. Now that he was on his own, there was no one to protest.
“This is the record I’ve always wanted to make,” Hart says of the self-titled debut by his new band, Burn Halo, which blends intoxicating ’80s-style power riffs in the vein of Guns N’ Roses with repeated guitar hooks redolent of The Cult and swaggering vocals reminiscent of Stone Temple Pilots. “These are just the kinds of songs I grew up listening to, and they’re what I still love.”
Hart penned the album with songwriter Zac Maloy in mid-2007 and cowrote “Anejo” with Avenged Sevenfold’s Synyster Gates (who also plays on “Dirty Little Girl”). Then he hooked up with Nickelback drummer Daniel Adair, Jane’s Addiction ex-bassist Chris Chaney, and guitarist Neil Tiemann to lay down the tracks. After securing a label deal, Hart hired a full band.
Whether plowing through head-bobbing rhythms or gliding through string-saturated harmonies, Burn Halo create a potent soundtrack for frustration-filled days and drunken nights. And song titles like “Dirty Little Girl,” “So Addicted,” and “Saloon Song” imply that the band is as motivated by fast times as it is by loud music-but that’s not the case. Ink-saturated Hart says he’s never been much of a hedonist, and over the past two years he has become even more righteous and responsible. “I struggled with faith for a while and I just came to the conclusion that the best way to find meaning in my life was to take things to a deeper level as a Christian,” he says. He’s also changed his approach to ink. “When I was younger I got a lot of meaningless tattoos. Now that I’m older I’d like to get stuff that’s a little more meaningful and that’s got a little more behind it.”
Despite his personal beliefs, Hart is fully aware that the best rock music is raucous and rebellious-hence the bawdy lyrics of “Dirty Little Girl” and the needle-on-sleeve sentiments of “So Addicted,” both of which were written about friends of his in dire situations. “When you don’t have a whole lot of personal strife … it’s hard to write about super-personal issues,” he admits. “You have to step outside of yourself and put yourself in someone else’s shoes. But I don’t want our record to be about my beliefs. I want our music to be for everyone.”