Review Summary: Dead Silence might not be anything revolutionary, but then again, if it ain't broke, why fix it?
Billy Talent haven't really changed radically over the course of their career. But really, when a formula works so well, why fix anything? Most of the band's fan base know exactly what they're in for when they buy a new album from the four-piece rock band from Ontario: catchy, uptempo beats, sometimes Drop-D tunings, vocals that sound like a mix between Bruce Dickinson and Brian Johnson, and backup vocal-heavy singalong choruses. If anything, their willingness to stay true to themselves has made plenty respect the band even more, whether or not they like them. Their songs often deal with themes like social injustice, and when asked why, at a radio station promotional appearance I attended the day before this album came out (where the fans would interview the band), singer Ben Kowalewicz remarked something along the lines of, "we typically like to write songs that would be good conversation topics. More often than not, we'll write about something you'd talk about over a pint with a friend at the pub, like maybe, 'when was the last time you had a real conversation face to face, instead of over texts or Facebook?'
". And that's another things the fans look forward to as well.
Billy Talent's fourth album, Dead Silence
, is a far cry from being experimental, however it does indeed do what the two albums before this did- take the style of their first album and give a new twist to it. However, this also may be the most different album of theirs. While it still has the same formula as stated above, it also gives it a darker and heavier spin. This is definitely the darkest album the band has made yet, and while the songs still have the power and punch the band's previous three have, at the same time, it has a more melancholy tone. The lyrics are way darker, and the songs have heavier guitar distortion and all that jazz. In addition, it also marks the first time a member of the band has taken over production duties- this time, its Ian D'Sa, and while he certainly doesn't have a thing on producers like Kevin Shirley or Martin Birch, at the same time, he does a relatively good job with what he is given.
But that being said, those who came for what they expect in a Billy Talent album won't be disappointed. There's a great deal of what they expect on here: "Surprise, Surprise" is a catchy tune that would fit on Billy Talent III
; the lyrics are a very satirical, tongue in cheek commentary about the recession, and how people constantly try to be first to jump on the bandwagon that creates new trends, be it clothing lines like Armani Exchange, or newest video game consoles like the Wii U. "Well, you're upper class daughters/And working class sons/It's hard to save a dollar the way the world runs/You're the target market of a corporate hoax/Our generation is a ***ing joke
," is one of the key lines in the song, not to mention "Those who seem to think we don't care/Are those who seem to think we're not aware
", which is an incredibly true line and can be used in any situation. "Man Alive!" is a catchy and fast paced punk tune, and is about knowing your rights in the workplace, and it might be one of the best tunes in their career. Other tunes like "Running Across the Tracks" and "Stand Up and Run", the former being a catchy, fast paced song that AC/DC would be proud of, and the latter being a breakup power ballad, wouldn't be out of place on Billy Talent II
Then of course, the darker side of the album kicks in, and some of these are some of their very best. "Cure For the Enemy" is the bands heaviest song yet, and a true tearjerker, about a father and son relationship which has been nearly impossible due to endless tension and disappointment, but finally happening when the son finds out his father is dying and they try to make every last moment together count. The chorus is especially heartbreaking: "So open your eyes/Open your eyes and don't forget to breathe/If we lose the fight/If we lose the fight your spirit will live through me/It's time we make right/It's time we make right the pages of history/Until we find/Until we find a cure for the enemy!
". "Dead Silence" seems to be about the holocaust, and ends the album on a sinister note. Musically it sounds a bit like System of a Down, and would make a good pre-encore closer at concerts too. "Love Was Still Around" is another one of their social injustice tunes, and has a catchy beat to go with it, too, and boy, Ben's voice really shines on this track. And not forgetting the album's intro "Lonely Road to Absolution", which is like the marriage of a System of a Down tune and a musical cue from an early Clint Eastwood film, which starts the album on a good note and leads in perfectly to "Viking Death March".
Is the album perfect? No, of course; there's a few filler tracks that do sort of make the album drag at times. While "Hanging by a Thread" and "Don't Count on the Wicked" are fun listen to and aren't particularly weak, the album would survive without them, and a few small production errors (some clipping can be heard at times) do ruin some of the tracks. But give the boys some credit; they're nearing their 40s, they've been together since high school. They still just want to to write tracks about social injustice, and catchy upbeat rock tunes that make us all singalong. They still want to go on tour and sell out arenas in Canada and festivals in Germany. Why shouldn't they? When they've worked as hard as they have for the past decade and earned millions of fans worldwide, they deserve to have a little fun. They don't have to prove anything to us any more, because they already have proven that they still have what it takes to keep us listening, and Dead Silence
is a true testament to this. Recommended, for sure.