Review Summary: This was a sign of the times.
It's kinda hard to talk about Three Days Grace these days without mentioning what's happened to them the last couple of years. With the sudden departure of original vocalist Adam Gontier, back in 2012, an underwhelming Matt Walst led fifth album, and the recent Saint Asonia record that proved to be a hit or miss return to the music scene for Gontier, it's pretty safe to say that it really sucks to be a Three Days Grace fan right now. There's just no passion in any of it anymore. Human
was a gigantic, overproduced, generic mess; the instrumentals sound bored, and while Walst has done all he can to emulate the coarse, searing vocals of Gontier, it simply wasn't meant to be. That's not to say Walst is a terrible vocalist, but considering how irrelevant Three Days Grace have become, it just couldn't be more ironic that his first words on Human
are "I don't belong here."
As opposed to this, It seems strange that the final chapter in Gontier's tenure, Transit of Venus
, saw him deliver an almost self-fulfilling prophecy for the bitter years to come, in album opener 'Sign of the Times';
"There's chaos on the rise."
The thing about Transit of Venus
is that its best quality, and also biggest hindrance, is that you can tell Gontier is really trying
here. Becoming one of radio rocks most recognisable vocalists, through the success of Three Days Grace
in the mid 2000s, his signature vocals in popular tracks such as 'Animal I Have Become' and 'I Hate Everything About You' have always been renowned for the raw aggression and emotion drawn from Gontier's performance, feeding off his inner demons to fuel the fire. By Transit of Venus
, the fourth entry into Three Days Grace's career, it's clear that some of that energy is starting to wane, with Gontier showing some strain throughout the album. To counter this, broader influences are brought in, both musically and lyrically, and, as if the band was already conscious of this gradually lagging momentum, went on to name the record after an event signifying the importance of a journey; the 2012 transit of Venus.
He's not lost his touch too much though; while dull rocker 'Operate' and mediocre ballad 'Time That Remains' serve as depressingly low points for the record, and lead single 'Chalk Outline' displays some awkward pacing and instrumentation issues, for the most part, Transit of Venus
remains a relatively solid effort. Album opener 'Sign of the Times' slowly burns with spacey ambiance and Gontier's soft, crooning vocals, until reaching an explosive crescendo, showing off Neil Sanderson's thunderous percussion and spectacularly beginning the record. 'The High Road' and 'Misery Loves My Company' feature as far superior straight up rock tracks, with guitarist Barry Stock's simple, but effective riffage driving the tracks forward, also breaking into several short, speedy solos throughout the record. One of the albums best moments comes in the form of Michael Jackson cover, 'Give In To Me'. Gontier's vocals fit the mood of the track perfectly, and as much of a surprise it is to see the cover here, it is a very welcome one. Gontier also shines on ballad 'Give Me A Reason', a gorgeous, haunting track, with eerie guitar licks slowly drifting by, until the track finally explodes in a wave of guitar distortion and harrowing calls of "I wish you would, wish you would."
Overall, Three Days Grace's fourth release sees them in a slightly more experiential, and aggressive edge than previous, ballad heavy record Life Starts Now
. Lyrically, the record comes across rather cynical at moments, with alcohol inspired 'Happiness' and the 'stab you in the back' style of 'Expectations' kicking out with attitude towards unknown offenders. And yet, the mood is lighter in places too, with tracks such as 'Unbreakable Heart' and 'The High Road' seeing Gontier deliver more uplifting lyrical content as opposed what Three Days Grace has mostly done in the past. It is genuinely refreshing to see Gontier with a slightly more positive outlook on things, and 'Unbreakable Heart' comes off as something of a wise word of advice from a seasoned, yet weary writer;
"So when you’re feeling crazy, and things fall apart
Listen to your head, remember who you are
You’re the one; you’re the unbreakable heart."
Of course, this was all leading up to an unforeseen, yet inevitable end. Barely months after Transit of Venus
dropped, Gontier suddenly announced his departure from the band, and any momentum gained by their recently released fourth record came to a screeching, pitiful halt. Citing health issues, and an inability to perform due to them, it became apparent later on that Gontier had simply tired of the band and wanted to move on. This left Transit of Venus
all but forgotten about, swept away in a flurry of surprised and enraged fans at the unexpected turn of events, and it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth that the album's title was so focused on a rare event full of wonder. Of course, this turn of events may have not been so unexpected after all, at least within the band; much as a predicted transit of Venus would come to pass, as would the future struggle of Gontier's departure. This is hinted at in certain lyrical choices throughout the record, but of course, this could have been just mere coincidence.
Regardless, the album was, for lack of a better description, a "sign of the times"; the band came together to deliver a unified, yet slightly aching effort, one last time. And for the most part, it paid off.