Commercial success and the support of mainstream radio might have contributed to a slight delay in Billy Talent getting the respect it has long deserved, but it’s going to be very hard for the haters to argue with the 905-bred quartet’s third album.
Brawny of riff and polished to a blinding shine by mega-producer Brendan O’Brien (Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, Rage Against the Machine), Billy Talent III is as respectable and as palatable as contemporary “modern rock” gets – endlessly anthemic, bursting with hooks, impeccably played and thrillingly heavy where it counts. Indeed, there’s much more low-end chug here than ever before, as O’Brien’s presence in the studio seems to have inspired the band to indulge in a little grunge-era revivalism.
Guitarist Ian D’Sa, bassist Jon Gallant and drummer Aaron Solowoniuk lurch and lumber with Zeppelin-esque rhythmic girth on tectonic monsters like “Devil on My Shoulder,” “The Dead Can’t Testify” and the blistering “Turn Your Back,” while the more characteristically punkish Billy Talent juggernauts (“Tears Into Wine,” “Definition of Destiny”) rip by at even more white-knuckled velocities than usual.
More impressive still, though, are the tunes that dare to mess with the foursome’s usual, angsty template.
The near-power ballad “White Sparrows,” for instance, finds impassioned shrieker Ben Kowalewicz singing with unusual attention to vocal craft.
“Diamond on a Landmine,” meanwhile, is as fond and authentic a tribute to The Police as anyone’s ever put to tape.
Don’t underestimate this band. We need more like Billy Talent to make the airwaves bearable again.
The Toronto Star
July 14, 2009