Billy Talent are:
Ben Kowalewicz ? Vocals
Ian D?sa ? Vocals, Guitar
Jon Gallant ? Vocals, Bass
Aaron Solowoniuk ? Drums
Billy Talent may well be one of the biggest Canadian bands of the last 5 years. In the space of two years, they have gone from playing half-empty halls to winning Junos and playing in front of thousands. Their debut CD has sold millions, and their name has gone from obscure novel reference to household name. So, with all this hype, how could Billy Talent II possibly live up to their name? Have we not heard of the sophomore curse? How could four of the newest stars of Canadian music not disappoint their fans?
Answer: Release an album that takes everything good about the last album, and improve on all the bad stuff. While that sounds like one of the simplest things to do, the truth is very few bands nowadays actually manage to do it well. Billy Talent are one of the few bands that actually pull it off, and Billy Talent II is a true gift to fans, providing a diverse sound without straying away from their punk revitalist roots. Truly, Billy Talent II is everything Billy Talent was and more.
Now that I think about it, Billy Talent II is a fitting name. II implies a continuation, and that?s exactly what this album is. This isn?t a totally new direction for Billy Talent. It?s a continuation of the style they had in their first album. That doesn?t mean Billy Talent II is a copy of Billy Talent. The only description I can have for this album is: An improvement.
Another one of the things that differentiates the current album from the last one is the new diversity. The album manages to tap into many different genres, without losing their signature aggressive punk sound. From the crunching darkness of Devil In A Midnight Mass, to the pop-rock sounding Where Is The Line, to the emotional ballads Pins and Needles and Surrender, to punks anthems Red Flag and Perfect World, this album has a song for everyone.
Devil In A Midnight Mass
is possibly the darkest song Billy Talent have ever written, and it?s definitely a direction they should go in more often. The first single off the album, DIAMM starts with a crunching dark riff, and continues in the same fast-paced style. At 2:52, it?s actually the shortest song on the album, but you?ll be too busy moshing to even care. The lyrics are also very dark, and make numerous references to religion and betrayal. For the main riff alone, this song deserves a five. Combined with everything else the song has to offer, it just makes it that much better. This song is an absolute triumph for Billy Talent. 5/5
Any major fans of Billy Talent will probably know of Red Flag
. It was originally released as a demo for the new album, and quickly circulated along the internet. The new version is basically the same as the demo, only with some minor changes here and there. This is one of the catchier songs on the album, and is a great punk anthem. It?s a lot of fun, and brings you back to what made Billy Talent a great punk band. This song would make a great choice for second single, and is another one of the standout tracks on the album. 4/5
slows things down from the last two songs, and helps prepare you for what comes next on the album. It?s a fairly simple song, but it has a nice vibe to it. The chorus especially stands out. That?s a common theme with Billy Talent II. The choruses are all near perfect, and standout on every track. Ian and Jon?s chant of ?This Suffering!? is deeply powerful, and throughout the song, both give powerful performances. Ian seems to have more vocal time on this album, and I?m not complaining in the least. A very good song indeed. 4/5
For me, Worker Bees
is probably one standout track on the album. From the very first listen, there has been something very special about this song. Lyrically, the song is impressive, because the entire song is a metaphor for the current situation in America at the moment, cleverly portrayed through bees. Musically, the song is amazing as well, simply because of the vocals performances given by Ben and Ian. Ian?s rough melodic cry of "Can we fight to save ourselves?" is definitely the highlight of the song, and beautifully works with Ben?s punk screaming. Definitely the best on the album. 4.75/5
From the sheer power and energy of the last song, we are transferred into a softer mood for the next song, Pins And Needles
. This song is really the Nothing to Lose of this album, in that it starts off very soft and beautiful, and by the end evolves into a dark powerhouse of aggression. Once again, Ian shines during the chorus, and his lighter singing beautifully compliments the guitarwork. As well, his shouting/singing blend work perfectly throughout the album, and especially here. Another solid track. 4.25/5
Next up is Fallen Leaves
, another slightly lighter song. There?s really not much to say about this song, as it?s a pretty standard Billy Talent track. The catchy chorus, the simple but impressive guitar work, the overlap of Ben and Ian?s vocals. In fact, the only unique thing in this song is the fact that it actually has something resembling a solo in it. That?s one of the things Billy Talent has rarely done, and is one of the few things that prevents this from becoming filler. While it?s nothing special, it?s still a decent song. 3.75/5
Where Is The Line
is probably Billy Talent?s poppiest song to date. Very catchy and light, this is a totally new direction for Billy Talent, yet it is one that they already seem to have mastered. They manage to perfectly balance upbeat catchy vocals and drums with a bouncy chorus, and yet still manage to sound punk. The ending of the song is also very cool, with the catchy shouts of ?Here today, but forgotten tomorrow!? Another one of the better tracks on the album. 4.5/5
Covered In Cowardice
starts out with an almost western-sounding riff, and maintains the western feel throughout. This is another one of the songs that is pretty cool the first time through, but quickly wears thin. Similar to Fallen Leaves, it?s a pretty standard song, and besides the western sounding guitars, there?s nothing that differentiates it from any other song on the album. 4/5
The next song, Surrender
, is another departure for Billy Talent. It?s possibly the only non-aggressive song on the album, and in any of their albums, for that matter. Ian?s vocals aren?t shouted, Ian doesn?t scream, and the guitars are soft and calming. Definitely a unique approach for the band, and one they pull off without a hitch. This song has so much going for it, and shows that Billy Talent can write more than just aggressive punk. 4.5/5
The original title for In The Fall
was The Navy Song, and for good reason. The opening riff sounds very similar to something you?d here on the seas, and the lyrics are clearly making numerous references to the navy. It?s a pretty cool song, and the chorus is probably one of the coolest parts of the whole album. With a toe-tapping beat, soft flowing guitars, you?ll feel as though you were really being carried away by the waves while listening to the song. 4/5
The title sounds like a classic pop punk song. Despite this, Perfect World
is one of my favorite songs on the album. It brings back the speed of DIAMM, but takes away all of the darkness, and instead makes the song into a balancing act of soft verses and an aggressive chorus. Ian and Ben?s vocals perfectly overlap with the cry of ?In a perfect world!? 4.5/5
If I had to pick the one song closest to filler material on the album, it?d probably have to be Sympathy
. Not only is it not unique, it?s actually boring at parts. It almost seems to whiz by, and you don?t really get a great impression of it. This song is definitely not worthy of Billy Talent. 2/5
Finally, we come to the closing track Burn The Evidence
. If you remember the last album, the closing track didn?t really function as a closer, and didn?t really leave you with a sense of the whole album. Once again, Billy Talent has improved immensely in this front. While it?s a pretty average song, the catchy chorus and bridge, and the fade-out end to the album really make this track something special. When compared to Voices of Violence, this song is a tenfold improvement as regarding closing. Great track overall. 4/5
Overall Rating: 3.7 out of 5
Pros: - Ian?s singing ? nuff said.
- Ben has an extremely unique voice, which he utilizes to the fullest.
- Nice varation of stylization throughout.
Cons: - Sounds almost too similar to the s/t.
- Vocal work may irk off some listeners.
Overall, this is Billy Talent?s strongest release to date, and sums up Billy Talent?s style very well. They manage to have variation without losing their unique style. This album contains some of their strongest work to date. Definitely worth picking up, just to support a great Canadian band.