Written By: Tim Bannock
Three Days Grace has returned with “Life Starts Now,” continuing their blend of radio-friendly alt-rock through twelve tracks. Twelve tracks that are probably some of the best produced and mixed tracks in the entire genre, thanks to Howard Benson. In fact, the sound quality on this album should be a lesson to everyone else (except maybe fans of Venom). It’s unfortunate that the songs on this disc rarely get up the steam to make expert use of such great production, but don’t fret: this review ain’t all about bad stuff.
The thing of it is that Three Days Grace are releasing their third album, one that should be as personal as their second (wherein singer/guitarist Adam Gontier was writing a lot about his battle with addiction), and more mature than their first. But it’s really not. The album opens strong, with “Bitter Taste” ripping your head off with some great guitar work and some monster sounds. There’s even a simple but ultra-melodic solo that really showcases Barry Stock’s lead abilities, the likes of which are never really heard again on this album for no particular reason. The album then moves into “Break,” which can be summed up as “everything that’s good about radio rock.” It’s catchy, it’s melodic, the vocals are gloriously frustrated (even if the lyrics are frustratingly predictable), and the beats just crash in all the right places.
“World So Cold” is where things start to fall apart, though. Everything about this song, including the lyrics, are just so much formula and so little anything else. While we catch a break with “Lost In You” (great guitar harmonics) and “Last To Know” (easily the most genius lyrics and best music this band has paired up), the rest of the album is a wash. Where are the great lyrics? Most of the songs – I’m looking at you, “The Good Life” – are completely brainless in their subject matter, not standing out from any of the party rock songs on the radio in the last half-a-dozen years. Where are the great guitar harmonics, or (gasp!) even another guitar solo? We hear Stock ripping it up all over the first track, and then it’s like he got told, “Sorry, that was too much. Could you just sit their and play some harmonics over our generic riffage?” What a shame.
Thus was born a terrible struggle. The album opens great, and there’s enough life in it to resuscitate it in the middle sections, but by the end, the band’s ingenuity is flagging, and their identity – something that reviewers have been battering them about since their first album – just doesn’t leave much of an impression. It’s not a bad album; the good songs are great. It’s not something to ignore; if you like Three Days Grace at all, you’re going to find enough songs on this album to make the purchase worthwhile. But it’s also not something that’s going to really leave a lasting impression, except maybe disappointment. Disappointment in what could have been, rather than what’s already there.
So, Howard Benson may have outdone himself with the sound quality of this album, but he needs to work on pulling a fiery performance out of the bands he works with. If the music doesn’t cut it, few will care how well it was produced.
Oh, and to make sure we end on a good note: check out the video for “Break” on CWG TV That is some slick production, too!