Review Summary: For Theory of a Deadman standards, a very solid effort
It's been awhile since some of the most hated bands of today broke into the scene. One of them is undeniably Theory of a Deadman, or so-called Nickelback-lite band. It's really not hard to see why they are called that - they use the same songwritting patterns, same subjects in their lyrics, pretty much the same production and on top of all that, Chad Kroeger signed TOAD to his label when they first came out.
They established their name as a rip-off early on with the self-titled record, which definitely had Silver Side Up vibe, but wasn't awful by any means. Song craft was decent, hooks were very strong, and, if anything, there were no sexist lyrics. At all. I know right, so strange. They tried to move away from that as Tyler Connolly, their lead singer, changed his singing style on follow up Gasoline, which had more of a southern rock feel, and produced a lot of pretty good songs, like "Santa Monica" and "No Surprise". It wasn't until their 3rd record Scars & Souvenirs they truly broke through with hits like "Bad Girlfriend", "Hate My Life", "Not Meant to Be" and "All or Nothing", which were highlights on rock and some mainstream stations in 2008/09. While it was recieved very mixed to negative, it wasn't nearly as panned as The Truth Is..., their next record. Currently one of the lowest ranked albums on Metacritic, it was a rough affair. It was packed with everything from mysogynistic lyrics, which TOAD sometimes used, but knocked into the ground at this point, generic songs, poor production and overall uncomfortable atmosphere.
While not all records were smashed by critics, they all sounded pretty much the same, musically. However, in 2014, TOAD decided to shake it up a bit, with Savages. Savages sees a decent deparature from their past works, as it features heavier and darker sound, different subject matter and a lot less ballads. "Drown" was a lead off single, and surprised a lot of people, as it shared much more lyrically than almost any time before, music was pretty alright and cathcy, chorus was infectious, and it definitely wasn't party stuff like we used to.
It turned out this was an overall theme for the rest of the record. While definitely not ballad-free with songs like "Angel" and "The One", they are pretty much ignorable in the sea of heaviness that honestly suits TOAD better than one would think. It's no longer 3 chord chugs (well, mostly), and they show us that they are in fact capable of creating something that is not as watered-down and bland as most of the stuff on The Truth Is... Title track, which featured Alice Cooper, "Misery of Mankind" and "Heavy" are pretty much alt metal songs, all containing decently interesting riffs, good hooks, and while the lyrics aren't the deepest thing ever, they fit those songs very good. "Panic Room" and "World War Me" are a bit more generic, but still feel more like they add to the record than filler.
If there is any filler here, it's the ballads, as it pretty much always is. Yes, there is some emotion there, but God are most of them boring. I mean, "Living My Life Like a Country Song" has some twang and some funny lyrics, but that's about as good as soft cuts get here. "Angel" was the most successful from this record, but musically is really bland. "The One" and "In Ruins" are both forgettable on the spot. Pianos are not only painfully unoriginal, lyrics are standard bare bones minimum imaginable as well. Tyler sounds fine, but there is nothing interesting coming out of his mouth here, except for "Angel" which has some fine lyrics to be honest.
The production is a major step up from TTI..., guitars sound very good, it's all mixed propertly. Bass is still pretty quiet, but since it's mostly root notes, it does not add all that much anyway. Drums are solid, they sound natural, and they shine here and there as well, even though the for the most part have rhythm keeping job. Tyler's vocals are probably weaker here than they've been in the past, but it still sounds good enough to please the ears.
The album closes with another 5-minute cut that features children choir for the finale. It is probably the best closer they ever had, and with that, I can say that this is probably one of the best projects TOAD have done to date. Of course it has little mainstream appeal to it since we don't live in the rock age anymore, but it is catchy and fun in places radio rock that will please casual listeners if it ever comes on the air. Haters will most likely not change their minds with this one, but fans will be very satisfied, as Tyler Connolly and guys delivered. It certianly has its flaws and there is couple bland filler tracks thrown in the mix (as usual), but this is a step in the right direction. Or at least, it was until 2017.
-Savages ft. Alice Cooper
-The Sun Has Set on Me
-Salt in the Wound