August 2, 2016 Billy Talent – Afraid of Heights (Album Review)
Starting in Ontario, Canada’s underground Indie music scene back in 1993, Billy Talent (formerly known as Pezz) was always greatly underrated as an Alternative Rock band. With no changes in their lineup since their inception, Billy Talent stands together as Vocalist Benjamin Kowalewicz, Guitarist/Vocalist Ian D’Sa, Bassist Jonathan Gallant, with Drummer Aaron Solowoniuk on hiatus for health reasons, and touring drummer Jordan Hastings joining the lineup this year. Though, as mentioned, notoriously underrated, the band boasts three multi-platinum albums since taking on the name Billy Talent, with six studio albums under their belt including this year’s Afraid of Heights, which dropped on July 29th via The End Records. With a dedicated fanbase and a worldwide tour, it is safe to say the band’s first album since 2012’s Dead Silence will see Billy Talent resurface to positive reception.
Twelve tracks in total, Afraid of Heights kicks off with “Big Red Gun,” which features an urgent chord progression that leads into even drums as Kowalewicz brings on his own narration of what seems to be gun control controversy and fear mongering in the masses. A strong opener for a strong album, it sets the tone of the album. Further exemplifying that tone, single, “Afraid of Heights,” titled after the album itself, is one of the most powerful songs on the album. Featuring the band’s unique instrumental and vocal style, the track is a constant crescendo as well as a strong release of emotion and dire need in a relationship.
Just as engaging and interesting as the title implies, “Ghost Ship of Cannibal Rats” does not seem to be a randomly hand-picked title, but could actually be linked to a 2014 UK real life Horror tale of an actual ghost ship sailing towards Britain with an infestation of rats aboard the unmanned ship. Quite interesting, the album’s “Louder than the DJ,” “The Crutch,” and “Rabbit Down the Hole” all focus on three diverse topics with equally diverse sounds. With themes in society, and what a disappointment it is, sordid love, and mental instability, the range of topics touched on are wide, intriguing, as well as multi-faceted in their depth.
Just as compelling, “Time Bomb Ticking Away” hosts a Hardcore Punk influence with a ton of tempo changes that keep the sound fresh. The track seems to focus inward and outward in what appears to be dual meaning: the world itself will implode, but so will the person described in the lyrics. Then there is “Leave Them Behind,” which has an almost folky sound mixed with Pop Punk, with sorrowful lyrics about people being let downs in life, liars and betrayers that need to be left behind. It does a great job conveying the emotional damage inflicted by false promises and has a prevalent attitude of “too little, too late” in its finality. This leads straight into a whole new beast, “Horses and Chariots,” a song paced entirely differently from its predecessor with a serious instrumentation and straightforward vocal performance which talks of war in an abstract way that could have multiple interpretations.
Having roots in a similar topic, “This is Our War” focuses more on the indifference of a nation and its lost generation that is listless as well as uncaring in the face of more fear mongering. Tapping into a darker theme, “February Winds” seems to reflect the melancholy of deep February winter in its instrumentation, channeling a Hard Rock sound in the thought-provoking sound. This leads to the conclusion of the the listener’s journey with “Afraid of Heights (reprise),” which is a reprisal of the second track and single “Afraid of Heights.” Rendered at a slower pace, the finale loses the power gained from its original tempo but gains a different strength in ways of emotional portrayal for the meaning of the song, and what the fear of heights truly represents to the narrator in the lyrics.
Overall, Billy Talent has always released interesting songs with unique composition and lyrics of substance, meant to provoke thought and introspection. With a large range of sound and topic, it is suffice to say Afraid of Heights ranks with some of their top works. With a tour on the horizon and the album freshly released, things are looking up for Billy Talent after the four year hiatus. That being said, CrypticRock gives Afraid of Heights a 4.5 out of 5 stars.