Three Days Grace
Transit of Venus

very poor


by toxin USER (20 Reviews)
October 24th, 2012 | 16 replies

Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Transit of Venus's experimentation displays potential for Three Days Grace to reach new heights, but the band forgets how to write a memorable song in the process.

Since the days of Pachelbel, musicians have relied on the basic chord progression I-V-vi-IV. Beginning on tonic (I) results in perhaps the most familiar sound to a modern listener. This same progression can be simplified into I-IV-I-V-I, a staple in the repertoire of beginning pianists. This progression, which appears frequently in classical compositions’ cadences (ending progressions), is actually more common than the previous one, and the reason is quite clear with a bit of investigation. On any instrument, play the first four chords without playing that last chord. It’s not quite dissonance but you should be bothered by the incompleteness of the progression. Finally playing the ultimate chord gives that musical phrase that satisfying sense of closure. The same is true of the I-V-vi-IV progression--- the tension created by playing a submediant without the subdominant (IV) is what makes that ending chord so sweet.

All of this is absolutely crucial to understanding why Three Days Grace’s latest effort, Transit of Venus, flops so badly despite substantially better lyrics, some interesting experimentation, and more depth in the form of added synths. The many positives of the album relative to their older effort should be praised, but only because they underscore the pitfalls of the album. No longer does the songwriting and lyric-writing feel so lazy and uninspired. Opener ‘Sign of the Times’ has the most interesting minute of any Three Days Grace song, with interesting lyrics set to an atmospheric background. The intermittent guitar chords and echo on lead singer Adam Gontier’s vocals create a minute unlike anything the band has produced before. But as the fast-paced power chord riffing sets in, the song reverts to the same tired, trite, and dull sound of the band’s previous efforts, and even when the atmospheric verse returns, the song cannot recover.

The problem with Transit of Venus is not Three Days Grace being lazy but rather that Three Days Grace are simply not good songwriters. Of the album’s six interesting verses, only one song follows through on the potential. ‘Give Me a Reason’ contains an eerie-sounding backing guitar much like Breaking Benjamin’s ‘So Cold’ or Chevelle’s ‘The Red,’ but the chorus does not deliver an effective melody. In specific, Gontier creates tension not unlike the hanging tension of not finishing the vi-IV or V-I cadence, but he never capitalizes on it---the listener never hears that satisfying resolution, instead hearing Gontier sing almost monotone. This same issue plagues almost every hard guitar riff Three Days Grace devises. By virtue of lacking a major or minor quality, power chords allow a band to be ambiguous about the mood, but at the cost of melody. For metal bands, this works well. Three Days Grace is not a metal band. At their best, they create catchy mainstream rock with metal undertones in the vein of early-era Linkin Park. Their overreliance on chugging power chord guitar riffs devoid of any true melodic value suggests the listener a hard rock experience that Three Days Grace isn’t capable of delivering. Power chords have a root and thus can create the same musical tension if used properly---something Three Days Grace has done in the past with ‘Never Too Late’ and ‘Lost in You.’ Bafflingly, the band abandons this in Transit of Venus to pursue musical gimmicks that simply do not compensate for bad writing.

Despite its dabbling in changing time signatures and subtle synths in an ill-fated attempt to give the song depth, ‘Anonymous’ sounds tedious and trite. Yet right before the final chorus, Gontier tries a key change that results in the catchiest chorus of the album. The guitar plays an actually complete chord progression, and Gontier has enough of an inflection in his singing to create some semblance of a melody. Likewise, ‘The High Road’ is a complete song with a solid verse and a chorus with an actual vocal melody. Gontier actually creates tension when singing that immediately is resolved, allowing the listener to actually enjoy the melody. The one power chord per measure augments this feeling, as it leaves Gontier enough space in the aural field to sing substantive lines. However, these two melodic successes comrpise 1 ¼ songs in a 13-song track. Rather than raising the album to respectability, they only underscore the collective failures of the other nearly 12 songs.

Considering their reliance on hooks, it’s amazing how poorly Three Days Grace executes them. In this regard they have always been hit-and-miss---compare ‘Time of Dying’ to the superior ‘One X.’ But Transit of Venus manages to strike out on nearly every song. This is particularly unfortunate because the band shows improvement in every other facet. The solo during the final chorus of ‘Give In to Me,’ a cover of Michael Jackson, is well-done; the atmospheric stylings with the increased focus on synths prove successful for the verses; and the lyrics are generally much improved. However, as a whole, the album’s hooks are a far cry from the infectious melodies of ‘Break,’ ‘Animal I Have Become,’ and ‘Never Too Late.’ It would serve Three Days Grace well to consider following the status quo of mainstream artists and use I-V-vi-IV ad nausem, for unoriginal likability is far better than blandness. Ultimately, Transit of Venus displays potential for the band to grow out of being a dime a dozen band and mature into a band akin to Chevelle. However, in the process of the growth, Transit of Venus misses the mark completely.

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user ratings (333)
other reviews of this album
1 of
  • Alex Beebe (3.5)
    While Three Days Grace haven’t grown up too much lyrically, Transit of Venus sees the ba...

    Oswald Cobblepot (4.5)
    Not far from a masterpiece...

    TooManyFriends (2)
    The magic is gone.......

    Shamus248 (3)
    In what would turn out to be Adam Gontier's final project during his tenure with Three Day...

  • Jagzfan814 (4)
    Far from One-X, but still worth a listen for true fans....

    Townsendium (4)
    Beats One-X in my opinion. Wish people would stop calling it Tranist Of My Penis...

    Pedro B. (2.5)
    Three Days Grace pull a Linkin Park, with roughly similar results....

    WhimsicalSnail (2.5)
    Hit or Miss? Miss for the most part....

  • Santiago191 (5)
    Overall i do believe this album to be a must buy if you are a Three Days Grace fan, and if...

    KeithLaFountaine (4)
    Very well made album. Combines electronic and hard hitting rock well without overdoing eit...

Comments:Add a Comment 
October 24th 2012


Album Rating: 1.5

I know this was harsh but I derived zero enjoyment from a band that was once my favorite.

Contributing Reviewer
October 24th 2012


This review is music class all over again

October 24th 2012


agreed with trebor

i hated learning chords and chord progression, ugh

thankfully in orchestra, I don't ever have to worry about using chords

Digging: Elysia Crampton - American Drift

October 24th 2012


Album Rating: 3.5

Couldn't disagree with this review more man, but it's a really well written review. You back up your rating very well. Posing you up.

October 24th 2012


Good review, pos

Interesting analysis of the actual music theory behind the album

Listened to a few that you mentioned and I basically agree

October 24th 2012


Good review pos'd

October 24th 2012


Great review, way to throw some music theory in there. It's like I am in college all over again.

Digging: Marmozets - The Weird and Wonderful Marmozets

October 24th 2012


Album Rating: 1.5

Thanks everyone.

I'm not going to lie, it's been a while since I've done ear training. It could be a matter of distortion compromising some of the harmonics which would explain why this sounds so unmelodic even if the root of the power chords have actual harmony. For sure though Gontier does not sing to create any tension (and thus resolution) in the choruses, something breakingthefragile touched upon on his review actually.

Ugh this is so bland though. I can't imagine 14-y/o me liking this album much either.

October 24th 2012


Album Rating: 1.5

Thanks. It depends on what you're looking out of the band.

In one sense, it's their best album musically, incorporating some pretty cool elements. But I've never heard an album so devoid of hooks. I'd say to give it a try, because if you have a higher tolerance for this kind of music, you might enjoy it.

Contributing Reviewer
October 24th 2012


Ratings chart looks like a bad game of tetris.

Digging: Carly Rae Jepsen - E MO TION

Staff Reviewer
October 24th 2012


Nice review man, have a pos. TDG were the shit once but no longer.

October 24th 2012


Album Rating: 2.0

Good review. Album reeks of fail. Not sure how much that has to do with their using power chords, but if you mean that they might as well go with the I-V-vi-IV since they don't even rock I would agree. The lyrics are just as cliche if not worse than before.

Digging: Cluster - Zuckerzeit

October 24th 2012


Album Rating: 3.5

I'm more positive about this album but the review was very good and I liked the musical theory parts.

Digging: Amorphis - Under the Red Cloud

October 24th 2012


The way I look at power chords is that even though they don't have a major or minor quality in them, the chord
progression can still give you the flavor of the key signature you are in. That's when a band should use lead guitar, bass
and vocals to fill in for those minor and major qualities that the power chords lack in the rhythm guitar. I am not
familiar with TDG except for when they first came around, but basing it off that I doubt these guys would really take
advantage of any of that, lol.

October 24th 2012


Album Rating: 2.0

Transit of Penis

October 24th 2012


Album Rating: 1.5

"The way I look at power chords is that even though they don't have a major or minor quality in

them, the chord

progression can still give you the flavor of the key signature you are in. That's when a band should

use lead guitar, bass and vocals to fill in for those minor and major qualities that the power

chords lack in the rhythm guitar."

Yep, that's what I meant by the fact that they still have root chords and thus can still be melodic

(and you really don't have to be skilled at all to do it... look at 'Smells like Teen Spirit' which

is a basic power chord progression), but TDG abandons that in favor of chugging power chords. Ugh.

"Album reeks of fail. Not sure how much that has to do with their using power chords, but if you

mean that they might as well go with the I-V-vi-IV since they don't even rock I would agree. The

lyrics are just as cliche if not worse than before."

It definitely has to do with their reliance on attempting the chugging metal power chord sound

(regardless of whether you listen to metal, you should know what I'm talking about). But yes I am

suggesting they might as well go with I-V-vi-IV. It's cliche but at least gives you a usable

framework to write decent songs. Lyrics are much better than before. There are a few cringe-worthy

lines, but nothing is hilariously bad as 'Last to Know,' 'The Good Life,' or 'Someone Who Cares.'

Especially 'Last to Know.' But yeah the lyrics to 'Sign of the Times' were pretty intriguing and the

actual lyrics (not themes) aren't so juvenile, like an 8th grade vocabulary.

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