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Billy Talent - Afraid Of Heights (Album Review)

Monday, 01 August 2016 Written by Laura Johnson

As ‘Afraid Of Heights’, the fifth album from Billy Talent, begins there is tension in the air and a number of inquisitive grumblings. Does a band that some think peaked in the early ‘00s have enough to say to sustain another spin around the block?

Here, the answer is a resounding yes. With Alexisonfire drummer Jordan Hastings stepping in for Aaron Solowoniuk, who’s had to take a step back due to a relapse of MS, Billy Talent kick things off by tackling gun control head on with Big Red Gun, on which Ben Kowalewicz sings: “I’m gonna shoot, shoot, shoot, no matter what the cost.” He then declares: “Pride is a weapon in your hand.”

The once upbeat choruses have been given a dark dusting down and, though still rousing, the build ups here are more subtle. This slow-burn approach also ensures the breakdowns land harder and louder than before.

That’s not to say that the Billy Talent of old has been completely cut from the script. Kowalewicz’s staccato delivery is as distinctive as ever and throughout he proves he’s still got the pipes. He dominates most of Ghost Ship of Cannibal Rats, on which his vocals spar beautifully with the chants of his bandmates in a manner that will please the old heads.

It’s something that creeps in again on the record’s lead single, Louder Than The DJ, an unashamed homage to rock’n’roll. Here they answer the question that hangs over every band returning after an extended break: “Those glory days ain’t over yet.”

Even in the album’s weakest moments, most notably Leave Them All Behind, which comes straight of the pop-punk cookie cutter mould, and Horses & Chariots, which is backed by an ‘80s synth beat that sounds odd when stacked up against its predecessors, Billy Talent are still better than the majority of bands that followed in their footsteps.

With ‘Afraid Of Heights’ Kowalewicz wanted to write a record “about struggle, both within ourselves and within the society we live”.  With the title track tackling issues of trust and songs such as This Is Our War exploring a nation racked with fear and lacking in compassion, Billy Talent have checked all the boxes, and thrown in some irresistible singalongs to boot.

Billy Talent Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows

Wed October 12 2016 - NORWICH Nick Rayns LCR
Thu October 13 2016 - BRISTOL O2 Academy Bristol
Sat October 15 2016 - MANCHESTER Academy
Sun October 16 2016 - GLASGOW O2 ABC
Mon October 17 2016 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE O2 Academy Newcastle
Wed October 19 2016 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Academy Birmingham
Thu October 20 2016 - LEEDS O2 Academy Leeds
Sat October 22 2016 - NOTTINGHAM Rock City
Sun October 23 2016 - LONDON Roundhouse
Mon October 24 2016 - CARDIFF Tramshed
Wed October 26 2016 - SOUTHAMPTON O2 Guildhall
Mon September 05 2016 - KANSAS CITY Missouri - Riot Room (USA)
Tue September 06 2016 - MINNEAPOLIS Minnesota - Varsity Theater - MN (USA)
Wed September 07 2016 - MILWAUKEE Wisconsin - Rave - Milwaukee (USA)
Fri September 09 2016 - NIAGARA FALLS New York - Rapids Theatre (USA)
Sat September 10 2016 - NEW YORK New York - Gramercy Theatre (USA)
Sun September 11 2016 - CAMBRIDGE MA Massachusetts - Sinclair Music Hall (USA)
Tue September 13 2016 - PHILADELPHIA Pennsylvania - Foundry - Philadelphia (USA)
Wed September 14 2016 - WASHINGTON District of Columbia - Rock and Roll Hotel (USA)
Fri September 16 2016 - GRAND RAPIDS Michigan - Pyramid Scheme (USA)
Sat September 17 2016 - KALAMAZOO Michigan - District Square (USA)

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