Ever since breaking onto the music scene in 2003 with their self-titled “debut” album after a lesser known name change, alternative rockers Billy Talent have been surpassing expectations with every new release. Maturing with grace much like a fine wine, their fourth release Dead Silence is no different, being some of their most mesmerizing work yet.
Abandoning the Led Zeppelin album naming convention of just numbering each CD – i.e. Billy Talent, Billy Talent II, Billy Talent III – Dead Silence improves upon the trademark Billy Talent sound in every way possible.
As an album overall, the most prevalent reaction to hit me was “Dead Silence sounds exactly like every other Billy Talent CD,” which I’ve emphatically relished about every other album as well. Billy Talent has found a dynamic sound which is both technically envied and pleasingly unique, perfecting their method with an “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality. Much like how AC/DC found an individualized pattern which brought them to classic rock stardom, Billy Talent songs are immediately distinguishable when raised on your iPod shuffle.
Kicking things off is curveball lead-in track Lonely Road To Absolution, a dark and foreboding tune which showcases the voices of Benjamin Kowalewicz and Ian D’Sa as they simultaneously sing us a haunting lullaby. Mixed with rarely used acoustic guitar work, the only surprise track on the CD sparks our intrigue right off the bat. Just don’t think Billy Talent has gone soft for Dead Silence, because once these guys pick up, they never let down.
The next song and first single, Viking Death March, is exactly the adrenaline kick we’re used to. Starting off with a deep catchy riff which carries the entire song, Viking Death March is the perfect example of more simple musical construction that capitalizes on a driving groove. As per most songs, D’Sa won’t melt your face off with a blistering solo, but he doesn’t have to when creating such melodically tantalizing riffs and chord progressions.
Next up is Surprise Surprise, a catchier sing along type rock song featuring relatable lyrics that attack our materialistic generation. Drummer Aaron Solowoniuk and bassist Jonathan Gallant are more in the forefront and lay down a smooth rhythm for D’Sa, as the six string feeds off of slick beats while jamming some standard Drop D tuning digs. Surprise Surprise, Billy Talent quickly gets off on the right foot.
The next song, Runnin’ Across The Tracks, marks the first time on Dead Silence D’Sa whips out one of those authentic rock riffs, hammering and pulling his way into our hearts. Kowalewicz and D’Sa also deliver yet another high-octane chorus, as each vocalist trades lines like haymaker blows, hitting hard with a wave of passion and intensity. Runnin’ Across The Tracks could be one of my top three favorite tracks on the album, showcasing exactly what Billy Talent does best.
Love Was Still Around returns to darker, bleaker territory akin to songs like Nothing To Lose, singing “When you’re done serving time/You can look them in the eyes/While you count all the live that you’ve broken.” Billy Talent was never one to shy away from more macabre lyrical stylings, vocalizing more problems and sadness at times, but I would never consider labeling them emo rock. Even while jamming about broken hearts and selfless acts of violence, the band still assembles an appeasing musical experience.
But just like that, Billy Talent switches gears and comes back with Stand Up And Run, a song that sounds like it should be playing in the background of a picturesque outdoor scene filled with sunshine, rainbows, and fluffy friggin’ bunnies. I love seeing the range D’sa displays writing such a melodic tune in comparison to his grungy rock outs, peeling back the many faces our Canadian rockers show while never abandoning quality, avoiding the clichéd love song just for the sake of wooing female fans.
Crooked Minds happens to be the perfect comparative track, starting out with another chord picking intro, but then exemplifying those murky palm-muted sequences that offer contrast to the lighter stylings of D’Sa. Although track seven ends as one of the least memorable on the album, which is like saying Crooked Minds is the worst Tarantino movie, there’s still plenty to love about another song attacking the crooked vision of society.
If for some reason you were lost amongst Dead Silence by now, Man Alive acts as your super boost of attention grabbing excitement. Existing as what the kids these days would call a “circle pit” song, Man Alive is full of raw aggression and electric energy worthy of a calculated mosh. Drawing back to Line And Sinker, we finally get a full taste of Kowalewicz’ wailing scream, another staple all Billy Talent fans look for in new material.
Jump next to Hanging By A Thread, and you’ve got Dead Silence’s equivalent to The Ex from Billy Talent. Complete with twangy intro and heartbroken themes, the song’s upbeat attitude keeps an air of redemption instead of simply whining. Billy Talent sure know how to write a lovestruck song anyone can listen to, as Kowalewicz sounds like he’s literally crying out in pain, full of longing and strong emotion, again never sounding wimpy or weak. ”C’mon patch me up, or cut me loose, cause these rags are turning red!”
The next three tracks – Cure For The Enemy, Don’t Count On The Wicked, and Show Me The Way - consecutively lull us into a Billy Talent induced coma, worth every ear pleasing second. There’s no sense in beating a descriptive dead horse in my opinion, as each song delivers 100%, rooted deeply amongst the band’s best works. These are the songs fans know, love, and expect Dead Silence to be made of.
But then, what is that sound? A piano? You heard right fans, the sweet symphonic sound of sorrow brings us into Swallowed Up By The Ocean, Billy’s second to last song. A haunting recollection of watching someone fade away right before your eyes, I literally got chills listening to Kowalewicz once again jar my emotions with loud accounts of saddened recollections, still moving at an upbeat tempo as only Billy Talent can muster.
Swooping in to close it all out is the self-titled track Dead Silence, getting back to the previous grouping of three songs. Displayed is the perfect amount of alternative appeal, rock stylings, abbreviated punk influences, and again dueling harmonics of Kowaleweicz and D’Sa. When all these parts meld together, the final product is such an audible treat, the slower tempo doesn’t even become a bother – even for a fan who favors songs like Red Flag and Saint Veronika over other catalogue entries.
Lyrically, Billy Talent is a band for the voiceless, but not without reason or intellect. So many songs carry a theme of vocalizing the plight of the “little man,” be it looked over workers or bullied souls, and Dead Silence features many of the same themes. As mentioned, the band’s “breakup” songs also always carry and edge of hope or passing, empowering the listener instead of drawing upon buried feelings. It’s hard to listen to an album like Dead Silence without immediately feeling like storming the proverbial castle, taking somber tales and spinning a “who cares” attitude around something that could have easily turned into a pissy emo anthem.
All weapons in Billy’s vast arsenal are on display this time around as well, making an intricate attack of multi-layered architecture sing loud and proud. From numerous guitar parts to the deep layers of vocal incorporation, Billy Talent can be found embracing more complicated constructions which enhance already addictive sounds. Successfully ambitious, their signature style and delivery has undoubtably flourished with time.
Thankfully dead silence didn’t come to rescue me, because then I would have missed out on another hypnotic CD from a band who should be on every self-proclaimed rocker’s radar.