Billy Talent - Billy Talent II
Record Label: Atlantic Records
Release Date: June 27, 2006
Despite being the music connoisseur that I am, bands occasionally escape me for years before I find them and grow to love them - Billy Talent is one of those bands. They've been around since 1993 in the form of Canadian punk band Pezz, and since 2001 as Billy Talent. They've release two acclaimed punk rock albums, both of which topped rock charts in Canada, won multiple awards, and become rather well-known - and I'd barely heard of them when, earlier this year, I received free tickets to see them open for My Chemical Romance. I looked up their latter album, Billy Talent II, listened to it on the way to the concert, and fell in love an hour before I saw them live (they were amazing, too, almost upstaging the headliners). With no review of this album in the Absolutepunk.net archives, I thought I'd bring this band to the attention of anyone who may have had the misfortune of never hearing them.
From the opening notes of the lead-off track and first single, "Devil in a Midnight Mass," Billy Talent II monopolized my ears. The demonic opening riff, reminiscent of Muse mixed with Korn, leads quickly into a punk rock song of epic proportions. As Benjamin Kowalewicz sings the horror of priests abusing children (accompanied by a rather scary video which echoes Stephen King's The Shining) with the line "'Forgive me, father' won't make it right," I hear bits of AFI's chanting, The Offspring's pop sensibility, and Papa Roach's guitar work. Quickly segueing into the sing-along protest song "Red Flag," Billy Talent switches over to more traditional punk subjects and screamy pop-punk sounds. This mosh-starter was a perfect closing song when I saw them live, and is represented extremely well on their Live 666 DVD.
From there, Billy Talent II touches a variety of subjects with a memorable rock album. "Fallen Leaves," a fan favorite, utilizes a catchy power chord riff and a chorus not unlike that of Trapt. "Worker Bees," a personal favorite, takes a buzzing bass riff, some great drumming, and transforms it into an anti-conformity song better than any I've ever heard. "Surrender" reminds me of Mesmerize-era System Of A Down, and "Sympathy" sounds similar to Billy Talent's 2003 self-titled debut. Other songs, such as "Where Is The Line?" and "Perfect World," take a similar formula to the rest of the album, but fall short of star status with less-than-fantastic lyrics and forgettable riffs. Sometimes, admittedly, Kowalewicz's rather whiny vocals can grate on the ears, but the well-written lyrics and tempting melodies more than make up for this annoyance. The screaming, fortunately, is sparse and well-used.
Though it is a cliche, there is indeed something for everybody on this record, and while I may skip certain songs, others probably skip favorites of mine ("This Suffering," the most emotive song on the album) and adore the tracks I avoid. Billy Talent certainly treads no new ground on their sophomore album, but they establish themselves as one of the most promising young rock bands in the world, and one that no avid music lover can justify ignoring.