Review Summary: The greatest cock-rock album of all time.
It's been almost a decade since Adam Gontier departed from Canadian hard rock quartet Three Days Grace and My Darkest Days' frontman Matt Walst hitched up with his big brother Brad's band as a replacement. While the move drove away swaths of longtime fans, seemingly forever, it never really effected them materially. Matt Walst got a gig with one of the 21st century's most commercially successful mainstream rock bands and the band itself has continued to churn out chart topping singles. Gontier, meanwhile, formed supergroup Saint Asonia, which continues to record and release new material, albeit very infrequently. The only ones who really lost
anything in that mildly tectonic shift in the mainstream hard rock landscape was Matt's former band, My Darkest Days. Matt's touring obligations with Three Days Grace initially meant a hiatus for the band, but they never recorded or performed together again. I wouldn't necessarily call it a loss; some MDD alums eventually found work on new projects and the band's biggest hit is called "Porn Star Dancing." I'm under no illusions that My Darkest Days' unintended dissolution is on the level of something like Chester Bennington's untimely death (holy *** I just realized that was 4 years ago today), but it is pretty surreal to look back on what used to be and see how Matt Walst has evolved as a vocalist.
My Darkest Days were nowhere near revolutionary in their genre; I'd even shy away from suggesting they were destined for the kind of success Three Days Grace enjoyed. But they did have raw talent and it shows on this debut record. Lyrically, it's the final stage of evolution in the kind of mega chauvinist dribble you'd get from Nickelback and their Wish.com counterpart Theory of a Deadman. But My Darkest Days somehow manages to add a sliver of gusto and zest to the composition. I'd be lying if I said "Move Your Body" didn't have an insanely catchy opening riff and Matt Walst's young, grating voice suits the track. Absent are the textures and depth to his voice he'd acquire with TDG, but it works well for what it is. Of course, at this point we're greeted early with what can only be described as the greatest cock song of all time; the morbidly iconic "Porn Star Dancing." At best, it's earned it's rightful place in the "so bad it's good" pantheon and I don't even mind it as background noise, but yes, if you're interested in something innocuous, you're going to be sorely disappointed and even my most non-cynical tendencies can't defend against that indictment.
From that point, the band attempts to settle down after that...unique introduction. "Every Lie" and "Like Nobody Else" are solidly performed, if criminally cookie cutter offerings anchored by the same trite lyrical tropes; severing ties with someone who's deceived you, that girl who you swear is so special, the whole nine yards. I brainlessly digested these tracks ad nauseam in high school and it's actually quite awkward to revisit them, knowing Matt was pushing 30 when he wrote them. He plays the angsty teen so unconvincingly that Three Days Grace and their contemporaries look like modern day Socrates by comparison. But it still manages to sound good enough musically that I can't in good faith mind all that much, making this album an even more remarkable achievement in and of itself.
"The World Belongs to Me" arguably has more personality
than any other track here. Gliding in on a mesmeric mixture of keys and synths, we're treated to an early chorus that's so sugary sweet, you just can't wait for it to come back around after the tepid acoustic verses that make up the song's chassis. Walst shines here, vocally. He doesn't have all of the rasp and zeal someone like Gontier possesses, but he comes pretty damn close and the track is better for it. "Set it On Fire", meanwhile sounds like a rejected Backstreet Boys B-side but with live instruments and a creepy song palette with more than enough infidelity to go around.
The standard edition of the album lags to the finish line with the tepid and uninspired "Can't Forget You" and a second round of "Porn Star Dancing", this time featuring Ludacris. Suffice to say, this remix's legacy is that it was the wackiest thing Ludacris had done before going into outer space with Tyrese Gibson. If you dig an inch deeper for the deluxe edition, the hidden gem "Still Worth Fighting For" awaits. This one is as ominous and vulnerable as Matt Walst and co get, and this time it's convincing and earnest in its presentation. With that, the first of just two full length projects from My Darkest Days draws to a close.
It's surreal to think a band that was together for eight years and had one of the biggest rock hits of 2010 has less than a hundred minutes of material that was officially released and that their entire existence ceased to be the day their lead singer got the unexpected call to fill in for his older brother's band. It certainly worked out for Matt, and I've thoroughly enjoyed the bulk of his output with Three Days Grace. His former band, however, collapsed in the background without him and never got the chance to expand upon the morbid legacy of "Porn Star Dancing." Though it's the musical equivalent to being the tallest kid in kindergarten, My Darkest Days' debut album might just be the greatest cock rock album of all time. The music wears that moniker on its sleeve and leans into it quite heavily. Though I'm sure it's far from what they wanted to be remembered for, at least we got a handful of genuinely enjoyable tracks out of it. Maybe one day, they'll regroup and send out some new tracks. If they do, hopefully Ludacris will stay far away from it.