I had a nice surprise today when a friend from school who since coming out swinging from sixth year with the rest of us has traveled far away to Hong Kong got into touch with me through a nice bit of social networking. Anyway, one of his big announcements was that he finally found what he believed to be a metal song that he loved, sending me a link. Obviously I never know what to expect with that person in particular other than a general distaste for rock music so to discover he had actually sent me a link to a rock song was a good surprise. However, the surprise itself was turned somewhat sour by the artist of the song itself, Three Days Grace.
Until this moment, I've been quite successful in avoiding Three Days Grace as they seem to be a band in one of those bizarre sub section of highly mainstream rock bands where they can gain well over a million Youtube views, yet there will be little to no press on them at least in magazine form meaning that no professional reviewers are around to inform the public that their current output has been nothing more than a bland collection of riffs that were left out from the commercial wave of nu metal. For being too bland. For being too bland to appear in a Staind song for goodness sake! And in the case of Three Days Grace, the lack of negativity means the love for the band has reached non understandable levels in which thousands of people have gotten lyrics and logos tattooed on them in a grim celebration of blandness! But everyone to their own, eh?
So that's been my thoughts on the Canadian quartet so far with their efforts on their self titled debut, 2006's One-X and 2009's Life Starts Now. And that's quite possibly why their latest effort Transit of Venus is something of a relief. Because this album has seen the band begin their quest of thinking outside of the box and taking on the idea of crafting music into something more expansive, more flowing, not just made for instant radio airplay.
But of course, that's not to say that the album isn't free of guaranteed singles. With their feel good choruses played out on the big riffs of frontman Adam Gonteir and lead guitarist Barry Stock, tracks like The High Road and The Time That Remains show that the hit single formula hasn't been completely ditched. But in favour, songcrafting has been built upon. Inspect lead single Chalk Outline. Amongst the swinging melodies and grungy guitar work, the song makes use of pounding synthesizers of the modern swirling type that you may have heard on Nine Inch Nails' Year Zero or on any band from the world of indietronica, which (In my horrible head of straightforward stereotypes where I always imagined that Three Days Grace's average fanbase would use lots of glossily produced uber-mainstream pop rock bands as evidence that "rock n' roll ain't dead" then don't even consider listening to acts that provide the original danger of rock and roll through a completely different musical style) seems like something that would cause something of a backlash.
More importantly than judging for lead singles though is the fact that with this album, there's just so much more thought and effort put into it. With the help of pop rock's most beloved producer Don Gilmore, big backdrops are put into place making the massive opening of Sign of the Times and Give Me a Reason much grander affairs that when put into work with the big riffs and grooves really helps them charge forward. It particularly helps Gonteir's sense of anger and tension come out effortlessly on the group's cover of Micheal Jackson's Give In to Me, a performance that the band do make their own.
When you hear the new intricacies and detail that shine through with this heightened album production, there's a sense of heightened boldness, ambition and passion that comes through in the band's performance and when you compare these tracks to one of their older singles Pain, it's obvious that big grand production is the kind of thing that bands like Three Days Grace need to rely on to have any hope of having any performance of worth because the older material now comes off as sounding exceptionally lazy.
It would hardly be a challenge for Three Days Grace to make an album that's been better than their previous releases so far given their quality, or lack thereof, but with Transit of Venus it seems that the band may have gone and defied all expectations and made something resembling a credible album. Of course radio fodder is still to be found on the album but no one's been tearing into Shinedown and Halestorm that much this year, have they? What's important is that for the first time, they've made something that wants to be a fully recognised album and not just a collection of would-be radio hits. Perhaps my friend in Hong Kong could have sent me a link to one of these songs and his introduction into rock music could have been a more interesting proposition. But he doesn't really need to impress me. Really, you won't get very far if you try to impress me to get through life.
Three Days Grace's Transit of Venus is out now via RCA.