Review Summary: Not bad, but not as interesting or inspired as other Billy Talent albums.
Compared to other bands that I listen to Billy Talent is rather new for me. I've only really started listening to them about a year ago but in that year they have slowly become one of my favorite bands. Outside of "Billy Talent III" I genuinely enjoy all of their albums, especially "Dead Silence" which I felt was more mature and in some ways darker than previous albums from the band. Upon hearing that the band would be dropping a new album this year I was pretty excited but after hearing the first single "Afraid of Heights" I started to fear for the album. The song wasn't bad but it certainly didn't feel as inspired or interesting as previous Billy Talent singes have. Sadly the same can be said for the album. It's not bad but compared to other Billy Talent albums it just feels uninspired and less interesting.
Let's start with the good as there is actually a fair bit of good to talk about. Production wise the album is solid. All of the instruments are clear and understandable with no major hiccups. The opening track "Big Red Gun" is a pretty solid hard rock track and it starts off the album rather well. It doesn't try anything new really but it's nowhere near bad and the chorus is just plain fun. "Afraid of Heights" while not anything spectacular has definitely grown on me since my first time listening to it. Truth be told I'd like it to be a little faster paced but it's not bad and once again, the chorus is pretty solid which ties the whole song together pretty well. "The Crutch" is a fantastic track and is definitely the standout track to me on this album. It has a nice catchy and bouncy riff with a pretty great solo and lead singer Ben Kowalewicz pulls off a pretty fantastic performance showing off his range and ability to really bring aggression to the forefront of the song. "Ghost Ship of Cannibal Rats" and "Time Bomb Ticking Away" show that Billy Talent still knows how to make some fun mid to fast tempo rock songs, with the latter being some of the most fun I had listening to the record and Billy Talent in general. Expect it to show up at live performances because it makes you really want to just get up and bounce along to it. Rounding all of this out is the fantastic ending track "February Winds" which is a mid tempo hard rocker that really shows off the talent of both guitarist Ian D'Sa and lead singer Ben Kowalewicz. It is a great end to the album as a whole.
Sadly the other five tracks of the album are not up to par with these and feel like B-Sides that were plastered on when the band realized that they were out of good songs for the album. "Louder than the DJ", "Leave Them All", "Horses and Chariots" and "This Is Our War" are flat out unmemorable and uninspired. Despite having listened to this album more than ten times, one of these being half an hour before writing this if you sat me down, pointed a gun to my head and asked me to hum a melody or lyric from any of these songs, the situation would likely end with my brain being splattered against an adjacent wall. "Rabbit Down the Hole" is actually a bit memorable but it gets a mention in the bad half of the album for having easily the worst performance by Kowalewicz on the entire album. Overall on this half it feels like Kowalewicz and D'Sa just did not give a damn about what they were doing here and it really kills the album to have such a lack of energy or care given to these songs.
Overall "Afraid of Heights" is not a bad album but it certainly isn't one of the bands best. A good chunk of the album feels like it really could have gone somewhere and if it had kept that consistency it could have been one of Billy Talent's best albums to date. Sadly though half of the album just feels like what you would expect to hear on a B-Side if that. I've said it above but I must reiterate. The lack of care or energy put into half of the songs on the album really weighs it down and makes it feel really lopsided. The good is really good but the rest is just a chore to listen to. If you're a big fan of Billy Talent I'd say pick this record up but if you aren't or are just getting in I would recommend skipping it altogether for now or checking out some of their old work.