Two years after a greatest hits compilation, staccato rockers Billy Talent have released their fifth full studio album, titled Afraid of Heights.
The band’s peppy energy is certainly present in this new offering, and will sound familiar to longtime fans. However something gives the impression that Billy Talent is sort of going through the motions this time out. It’s hard to put a finger on.
Aesthetically, BT is the same BT we’ve grown to know and love. Singer Benjamin Kowalewicz’s vocals sound powerful, but largely sit in the lower of his registers. Understandable, as many singers have to adjust to the fact that their voices just can’t howl at 40 like they could in their 20’s.
This may account for some of the subtle sonic differences, but the biggest element missing is the lack of memorable hooks. You may think this is a strange statement, given that this band has been almost nothing but hooks for the last 15 years or so, but it’s somehow relevant.
After a few listens through Afraid of Heights is certainly an enjoyable ride, but I found myself struggling to remember much about what I had just heard. In the past, tracks like “This Is How It Goes”, “Devil in a Midnight Mass”, “This Suffering”, “Devil on My Shoulder”, and “Man Alive!” were immediately identifiable and hit you in the face. Unique guitar riffs and vocals that get stuck in the brain while simultaneously daring enough to push some boundaries.
Here, the title track “Afraid of Heights” is the only one that gets close to what I described above. “Louder than the DJ” is certainly meant to come across as a big single, but the lyrics fall in a boringly trite realm, and the band somehow reminds me of the B52’s. But not as interesting. There is also a very clear classic/alternative rock thread through the whole thing as well.
This new album just sounds like it has… less intent than their previous releases.
Bottom line: Instead of an attitude that screams, “Hey! Check us out!”, Billy Talent has released a comfortable ride this time that seems to humbly say “Here’s something new we did.” It just doesn’t quite have the bang/pow when said like that.
Tracks to check out: “Afraid of Heights”, “The Crutch”, “February Winds”
Categories: Album Reviews