Review Summary: This admittedly decent band suffers from the loss of one of radio rock's best voices.
Give the instrumentalists of Three Days Grace a pass. They wanted to please their fans after the shocking departure of lead singer Adam Gontier in early 2013. They pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and put that "show must go on" mentality into action as they genuinely wanted to keep this Ontario hard rock outfit alive. So with that said, the issues that plague Three Days Grace's worst outing yet falls on about 0.1% of the instrumentalists' shoulders. That 0.1% counting for their average instrumentation and the input they gave towards this abysmal lyrical performance. The unconscionable other 99.9% falls on Matt Walst, the admittedly good singer of fellow Canadian rockers My Darkest Days.
Let's consider the circumstances just for a minute. Say what you will about Three Days Grace and their radio-friendly rock peers. Adam Gontier is arguably the best singer that mainstream rock has seen in a long time. And I mean that in saying so. Adam made bad tracks good, good tracks great, and great tracks excellent. Whatever was put on the table was instantly improved with Adam's presence. His impeccable voice filled with grit, rasp and aggression, and his compelling life story of hitting rock bottom and taking it upon himself to come out a better man gave this group's discography a personal touch. Say what you will about mainstream rockers that "whine" too much. Gontier and company were the common man's anthem for 12 years. From their worst ("I Hate Everything About You") to their best ("Never Too Late"), thanks to Gontier's presence, Three Days Grace has sent chart topper after chart topper to the airwaves since their inception. With Gontier's departure, however, this album was supposed to be the album that defines their career, and it hits all the wrong notes.
Matt Walst can sing. He deserves props too. To say he had big shoes to fill is a complete understatement. His attempts to channel Adam throughout Human is a valiant effort, maybe to a fault, but the first of many problems is coming to terms with the fact that Gontier is practically irreplaceable. Gone is the band that made hard hitting mid tempo rockers that an average Joe like you or me could find solace in, regardless of what mood we're in. What we have now is a band stuck in their teens and stuck in neutral musically speaking.
Opening track "Human Race" is by far the WORST song of this group's career. The song would have actually been great had it been written better. The abhorrent repetition and use of "yeah" and the poorly written chorus overshadow solid instrumentals. Barry Stock's solo towards the end of the track is the best thing instrumentally this group has tackled since 2009's "Life Starts Now." The attempt to create an atmospheric vibe similar to 2012's "Transit of Venus" falls flat on its face as well as the synths and sound effects are just sloppy and not appealing at all.
Leadoff single and chart topper "Painkiller" is a solid enough track. The riffs come at you as hard hitting as can be from the get go, and Walst does his best to flow through the verses without sounding too harsh or abrasive. Lyrically speaking, though, it feels like an upbeat re-hash of "I Hate Everything About You", in which the singer (the perspective of the vice as drummer Neil Sanderson calls it) tries to entice you, rather than the singer trying to reject the vice. "Fallen Angel" is one of the better songs on the album. It actually succeeds with its atmospheric intentions and Walst proves he's got the pipes to compete with this group's peers. The listener is starting to settle in and possibly get into the album when "Landmine" just reeks of immaturity and terrible composition. Three Days Grace, as contrived and derivative as they can be sometimes, are certainly capable of making tracks better than this garbage. Like an album with a parental advisory sticker, take these words as a warning; SKIP "Landmine." and listen at your own risk.
"I Am Machine" is arguably the best song on the album. While not the freshest lyrical structure in the world, it shows that the group can be not just catchy, but rather infectious at times. Matt Walst goes all in to be a truly hard hitting vocalist, and with the instrumentals actually being on point and somewhat compelling either, "I Am Machine" is actually a treat for the ears, and it shows the group can still carve out a needle in the haystack. "Tell Me Why" combines the guitar riffs of "Never Too Late" with the lyrical content of every other Three Days Grace song in existence. Another angst-riddled common man's anthem will please fans for sure, but won't be anything new to a novice who isn't invested in this group's work. Nevertheless, the composition for "Tell Me Why" is solid and worth at least a couple spins.
At this point, the album has offered four songs that range from decent to great, with a couple of airballs lodged in between. Once the dust settles and the back half of the album begins, it finally becomes apparent that Adam Gontier's presence is greatly needed after all. "So What" is decently executed instrumentally, but the lyrics just see Walst sneer these arrogant and immature verses about not caring about opinions and simply saying "Who cares, we'll be us and you can't change us." They really had to go there" Again, love em or hate em, Three Days Grace can make good songs, and this is not one of them. "Car Crash" is a return to form on all accounts. Like "I Am Machine", it's nothing new lyrically, but it is a pretty cool concept to see someone's life spiral out of control and compare it to a car crash. The performance from all involved is solid enough and again, the concept is interesting enough. Then the album closes with a handful of very formulaic tracks that I guarantee you, would NOT have made the final cut if Gontier was still with the band.
"One Too Many" just made me cringe on the first listen. It opens with an admittedly cool guitar riff. What it also is, however, is another failed attempt to be atmospheric, and showcases poor lyricism and lackluster instrumentals. I'm not quite sure what Matt Walst "wants to get his hands on", but the listener will not be pleased after hearing this. Mentioned earlier, you can bet all the money in your pocket that Adam would have tossed these lyrics in the trash after reading them. Throughout the record as a whole, you'll hear tracks that are kind of a Three Days Grace staple; furthermore, songs that belong on a TDG release. but then you have tracks such as "One too Many" and you'll think "Wow, it's wonder why Adam left." Adam may have some weaknesses in the songwriting, but as the most prevalent songwriter in the group at the time of his departure, he would have had none of this.
"The End is Not the Answer" and "The Real You" try to close the album on a high note, but the end result is sour as a lemon. Walst tries to inject some life vocally, but the composition is just not suited for his voice. These two songs are the rare instance on Human where the instrumentalists have more fault than Walst. The usually capable Brad Walst, Matt's older brother, is barely audible on bass, and Stock's riffs are abysmal. "Nothing is Fair in Love and War" displays another poor lyrical effort, and with that, Human dies as all humans will do.
So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Three Days Grace's first album without Adam Gontier, and it was their worst album even before it began. I know that's not the fairest thing to say, especially since I told you earlier to cut the group some slack. But that was in reference to how "fans" or former fans, mind you, have continued to criticize the group simply for moving on from Gontier. Hey, bands lose vocalists all the time. That's no excuse to hang 'em up and call it a career. What is fair to say, is their effort to please their real fans is simply a disservice to them. I have considered myself to be a fan of Three Days Grace, and what we "real fans" will do is support the artist through thick and thin, or at the very least, give them a fighting chance. It's all for the sake of debunking that infamous "rock is dead" statement from KISS bassist Gene Simmons. This record, however, is not the album that can save the fading genre. Take a good look around Three Days Grace, because you're finally a true part of the Nickelback-led pantheon of formulaic and radio-friendly mainstream rock. You had your days in the sunlight, now take a seat amongst the people you try to relate to. For genuine fans of this group, I'm sorry to tell you, but your voice for the voiceless, just became voiceless, figuratively and literally.