Canadian rock band Billy Talent return after 3 long years with their eagerly anticipated third studio album, ‘Billy Talent III’ following up on the success of 2006’s ‘Billy Talent II’. When the band entered the studio, even they themselves must’ve been surprised by the well received praise and popularity of their previous album, which managed to reach the number one spot in Germany and Canada, and had also gone on to win a Juno award for ‘Best Rock Album of the Year’. So, surely the band would win our hearts over again this year?
Second single from the album ‘Devil On My Shoulder’ opens the album, and from the start guitarist Ian D’Sa delivers a classic Billy Talent guitar riff, whilst vocalist Benjamin Kowalewicz delivers a strong vocal and lyrical performance – “I got the devil on my shoulder / And I just can’t sink any lower”. First single offering ‘Rusted From The Rain’ slows down proceedings with its almost melodic verses, before transforming into a heavy guitar riff laden monster armed with an impressive solo from D’Sa: classic Billy. After hearing the band’s two singles, it’s blatant that the band has explored darker and more religious themes, with the impression that they themselves have sold their souls to the Devil, as well as having political and environmental influences sprinkled throughout. However, this is where the album loses its bite.
One of the band’s strong points was always their anger and their ability to transfer that into their songs. It’s disappointing when songs like ‘Saint Veronika’, ‘White Sparrows’ and ‘The Dead Can’t Testify’ sound like they’ve just been recycled from old material that can’t help you feel that something is missing in Billy‘s creative engine. Regardless the album still has its moments in the form of the neo-punk song ‘Tears Into Wine’, whilst ‘Pocketful Of Dreams’ is reminiscent of old fan favourite ‘Fallen Leaves’. ‘Turn Your Back’ is a shining light which sees the band offering some sort of variety; a social, political and environmentally driven behemoth that D’Sa and Kowalewicz conduct with aplomb.
But you still can’t help but feel that Billy Talent are plodding along half of the time, without bringing much new or original to the table. The heart of the band is clearly D’Sa, who without fail pens superb guitar riffs and solos that keep the record fun, fresh and listenable, but far too many songs sink into mediocrity.
‘Billy Talent III’ isn’t necessarily a bad record, but it is a step down from previous albums. Musically there is very little progression, and their sound is quickly becoming stale resulting in an album which packs far too few punches. Die hard fans will be content, but fans who expected something newer and rawer from the Canadian quartet will be left disappointed at the lack of drive and emotion that they were expected to deliver.
Written by Sean Edwards