Billy Talent sure took their time to record, produce and release the follow up to their self titled debut. That was released in 2003, and more or less embraced by the listeners with mixed response. Some really loved it, some thought it was nothing more than average. Or rubbish. Depends who you ask about it.
Now, three years later, the follow up is here. Simply titled "II", and sporting thirteen tracks aimed at you listening pleasure. Depending on what you're looking for, you might really be in for a treat. I see very mixed responses from listeners for this one as well though. With the opener "Devil in a midnight mass", also the first single of the album, you're in for quite a kick start. It sounds familiar and foreign at the same time. The vocals are clearly Billy Talent, primary as well as background. The distortion sound is very Muse
like though. A good fast paced song.
Does this mean that Billy Talent have changed and progressed? Not necessarily. There are some new and interesting things to the new songs. Like the mentione sound on "Devil...", in a way the start to "Worker Bees" (funny sounding bass intro, somehow it underlines the 'Bees' in the title and lyrics). But the rest is similar to the first record. Style-wise that is. You have a bit slower and more mellow songs in the wake of "Nothing to lose" ('Surrender', 'Pins and Needles'), the songs with a faster pace that are pushing forward in the tradition of "Try honesty" and "River below" ('Devil in a midnight mass', 'Perfect World'). Overall the songs on II are a bit more mellow and slower in a way. More use of clean guitar, melodies and so on. One could say that the band developed their style and direction further without changing much.
The band members work together well, that's for sure. The background vocals compliment the main vocals excellently, guitar, bass and drums fit well. All put in the picture by good production. As far as I can tell, the lyrical content has not changed a lot though. Songs about girls and ex-girlfriends (back then it was 'The Ex', not i's 'Perfect World') just as an example.
Is this album good or bad then? That really depends on how you liked the first album of the band if you're already familiar with them. As there are no really drastic changes, you will probably like this one as much as the first one. As long as you can arrange yourself with the slower pace of the songs. That means on the other hand, that if you hated the first album, you probably will not like this either. For that not enough changed here. What if you do not know Billy Talent yet? You can check out the single, but it's not all that representative for the whole album, as it sports a very different sound compared to the usual Billy Talent songs. There are possibilities to preview this as webstream online (check out the news section here for links), so the best call would be to take it for a test drive there.
If you like the previous album and similar bands though, this could really be a nice album for you. I personally would say it's a bit fresher and layered compared to the self titled, which is why I rate it a notch better. It's not that much though, as they are quite equal regarding quality.
My rating would be: about 3.7/5