The hard-rocking Canucks Three Days Grace from Norwood, Ontario, after what feels like far too long a gap, are back with fresh material in the form of their fourth studio album, Transit of Venus. Sticking to their standard three-year release cycle – Three Days Grace (2003), One-X (2006) and Life Starts Now (2009) – the group, still formidably led by skilled vocalist Adam Gontier, have plucked their album’s name from the headlines: Venus’ visible traverse of the sun on June 5th. The title is fitting in more ways than one; as it is not only timely but with regards to the album in its entirety, which is (pardon the pun) out of this world.
In a number of ways Three Days Grace’s latest is both immensely loyal to the band’s coarse, high-energy style while also moving in some different directions, which include some fascinating guitar rifts evident in their first single Chalk Outline and even a cover of Michael Jackson’s Give In To Me.
After the relative disappointment of Life Starts Now (which more than anything else simply paled as a follow-up to the masterful One-X; an album which still stands as one of the most infinitely replayable modern rock CDs), Transit of Venus has more or less reverted back to the tone of their self-titled debut and first hit I Hate Everything About You. Transit of Venus is angrier and feels almost like a breakup album, though in the best of ways.
Life Starts Now offered up some gripping singles off the bat with Break and The Good Life but their next two releases Lost In You and World So Cold came across more as pop-rock and the remainder of the album failed to offer up anything other than fleeting entertainment value – strong enough as the tracks rolled, but at the same time never able to bore lastingly into the mind. Such is certainly not the case in this entry in the Three Days Grace canon.
The first three tracks of Transit of Venus deliver a sucker punch of adrenaline-charged rock that offer the rare combination of sheer vitality, strong prose, and most importantly, un-manipulative catchiness – you’ll want to cycle through them again immediately. And if you don’t, well, you must be partially dead inside.
Of this trio of impressive tunes, things begin with Sign of the Times, a melancholy, melodious, almost nightmarish track that explodes at the 1:16 mark after a sombrely delivered line by Gontier. The song almost has a feel more akin to something Disturbed would lend their name to but with the distinctive vocals of the lead behind everything, there is no mistaking Three Days Grace has just unleashed musical bliss and we’re in for one hell of an album.
Then, before we can even recover from that initial barrage of stellar rock, comes Three Days Grace’s aforementioned first single Chalk Outline, which right out of the proverbial gate bombards us with one of the most distinctive and addictive opening rifts of the year. Not to be outdone, Chalk Outline shortly after offers up the most memorable and shower-singable (that is now a thing) chorus of the album.
You left me here like a chalk outline
On the sidewalk waiting for the rain to wash away, wash away
You keep coming back to the scene of the crime
But the dead can’t speak and there’s nothing left to say anyway
All you left behind is a chalk outline
There is no question whatsoever as to why the group would have chosen Chalk Outline to be people’s first taste of Transit of Venus, as even if the album as a whole doesn’t radically change the band’s sound, this is a sidestep from their usual product and a deliciously refreshing change of pace that at its core still holds true to their sound.
Things slow down just a hair for The High Road – track number three – a real head-bobber that lyrically comes off as a tad more optimistic (though never less clever than the majority) than their first two songs though it never lets up on the energy level that propels this CD to greatness right off the bat. This is the type of track that upon multiple re-listens in quick succession will immediately be seared into your consciousness. It is a primed candidate for a second single.
The rockin’ good times continue with Operate, a more lyrically straightforward tune that sorrowfully uses its “operation” allegory to tell the story of the demons brought out by the wrong kind of woman. There is little inherently deep in the metaphor but the song is catchy and does nothing to hinder the momentum provided so far by Transit of Venus.
Next is Anonymous, an ultimately interesting track that grew on me after a first listen where I felt the use of the word “anonymous” itself in the chorus was off from a syllabic perspective. However, a few (effortless) loops through the song mostly put to rest any qualms I had with the Three Days Grace’s choices in that department. It’s certainly nitpicking but the quality of material on display is of such a high calibre that it’s all I can do to put my finger on things I don’t like.
From a song writing perspective, the sixth track Misery Loves My Company, is one of my favourite of the album, even if the instrumentals (save the into) are rather by the book if not still extremely solid. The hook on this one is gripping.
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