I’ve never done a music review on here before, but since I feel particularly emotional about the political environment of America at the moment, and I received Billy Talent’s fifth studio album in the snail mail the other day – because I see buy CD copies of their music, and only their music – I thought it would be appropriate, and cathartic for myself, to review this album song by song and take a break from arts and crafts for a week.
First of all I’d like to mention that I felt great shame and embarrassment at myself that this album had been out for 6 months and I hadn’t known. How can I call myself a fan with Billy Talent lyric tattoos and have completely missed the boat on that news? I still feel ashamed. BUT ANYWAY.
This album is titled Afraid of Heights (also the name of their number one single off the album) and to be honest, I felt a little sad/disappointed/annoyed when they departed from the numerical naming of their albums last time around with Dead Silence, BUT, I did feel like Dead Silence had a slightly different sound than Billy Talent I, II, and III. That said, overall, I find Afraid of Heights to had a lot of throwback melodies to I and II, with a little bit of the more recent sounds of Dead Silence.
1. Big Red Gun
The album starts off with Big Red Gun, and right off the top it’s that classic Billy Talent sound and chords, together with my favorite thing about their music: political lyrics.
The first verse made me think this song was from the viewpoint of a liberal person upset about the bullshit going on in the world:
Brothers in arms who share my fears,
Time to protect what you hold dear
There’s been a rise in new ideals,
Threatening to change the way we live
But upon further listening, it seems to tell the tale from the side of intolerance:
And all I want is a big red gun,
I’m gonna shoot, shoot, shoot till the thrill is gone
‘Cause this is my right no matter the cost
Get outta my sight when baby’s got a big red gun
It then goes on later to say:
We call them twisted and deranged (baby’s got a big red gun)
But we gave them the keys to annihilate (baby’s got a big red gun)
I thought the narrative changing course at the end to a viewer’s viewpoint was interesting and also a little thought provoking. Overall, Big Red Gun is a solid BT sounding song with a great message.
2. Afraid of Heights
The title song off this album is actually one of my favorites as well. I think it has an original BT sound that melts together really well with their more modern sounds, but also seems to incorporate that “hollow” sound I find a lot in 80s music, and it just goes together so well. Synesthetically, this song feels ‘right’ and orangey. I think it’s definitely more on the warm color side.
None of the lyrics really stand out to me in this song, aside from the chorus parts which really just repeats “You told me that you’d never be afraid of heights” over and over. I initially thought this song was also political, but I after listening to it more, I think it’s personal – with maybe a little political nuance.
3. Ghost Ship of Cannibal Rats
The title of this song sounds ridiculous, but holey moley guacamole – if you like political music, this is the shit right here. It has the perfect BT sound – definitely a lot of original I & II sound (background screams of ‘respect!‘ between verses) and overall staccato line deliverance with smooth endings.
The lyrics themselves are kinda gorgeous, in my opinion, although I’m not gonna lie, even though I know the lyric is “all aboard on the ghost ship of cannibal rats“, I want to sing “all aboard on the ghost ship of MECHANICAL rats“. This song is definitely more red and fiery and easily sung along to. It’s a good one to listen to if you want to get fired up and jam out.
I personally enjoy the melodic verse:
So how long before the rivers start to rise, dear?
Yeah I thank my lucky stars to be alive here
4. Louder Than the DJ
This is probably one of my least favorite BT songs, and definitely my least favorite on this album. As far as songs about rock and roll go, I’ve heard better. This one just seems like a filler song and there’s just something off about it. The chords? It sounds gray and grating.
I will say, however, that I enjoy the lyric:
And I don’t know what’s making you tick
Excellent lyric deliverance for ‘nar-ciss-is-tic’.
5. The Crutch
I wasn’t so sure about this song the first couple times I heard it, but after listening to it again, I’ve decided I. LOVE. IT. Seriously, I’ve been coming back to this song over and over, singing its chorus and feeling that melody.
It’s got that right mix of classic BT with modern sound. Lyric deliverance is also a perfect mix of melodic verses followed by staccato lines. The overall sound is smooth and pinky-red and kinda makes my chest feel full of good vibes if that makes sense to anyone else but me?
I find this song to be one of those BT songs that you want to sing to along to, even if the words don’t personally resonate with you. It’s just good.
6. Rabbit Down the Hole
The obligatory sad song. Certainly not as depressing as Surrender was, but it’s definitely a song for those who’ve lost loved ones. Billy Talent does a really beautiful job with these kind of songs, and I find this one to be the right amount of ‘might make you cry’ with a dash of still rockin’ it.
I find this verse to be a great euphemism for the journey of life to death:
Everyone that you hold dearly, you try to keep them close
‘Cause some of them get bitten by that rabbit down the hole
And once you walk past through the grass, you’re never coming home
BT generally does a nice job with using interesting symbolism in their lyrics and I think this song is an excellent example of that.
I also enjoy the fade of at the end of the song with the repeated lyric “one of these days you’ll break away“. Literally perfect.
7. Time-Bomb Ticking Away
My opinion on this song is short and sweet: I don’t really much to say on it. It’s got that original BT sound, especially on the drums. It doesn’t particularly strum any heartstrings for me personally, and I think it’s another filler song.
8. Leave Them All Behind
This song is definitely more modern Billy Talent. It’s one of those songs that has a slow start, but after you get past the first two verses, it’s enjoyable and makes you kick your feet to the beat.
It sounds golden and hits the right beats and notes. Lyrically, I find that it uses rhyme really well, especially with the “ime” sound.
9. Horses & Chariots
Another song I’m not particularly hype about. I think this one starts off slow as well. There’s too much vocal warbling with like half the lyric deliverance. BUT, as it goes on, I can say that I KIND OF like it more and more. I don’t go out of my way to listen to it though.
10. This Is Our War
THIS IS WHAT I CAME HERE FOR. My favorite song off this album, I find it to be perfection in both lyrics and sound. Everything about this song makes me happy to the point where I’m giddy.
It starts off with a bang, and then goes into that staccato lyrical build that moves into smooth melodic singing and I melt every time I listen.
Also, the LYRICS. They make me SWOON. I mean, how fucking accurate is this for today’s political environment!?:
Wash your mind out, where’s your morals?
How many people have to live this sorrow?
Life should not be begged or borrowed
How many really want to change tomorrow?
AND AND AND
Divisive words from ivory towers
Seeds of intolerance turn into flowers
Countless fools and reckless cowards
Rally the people in the quest for power
I mean goddamn, Billy Talent, who are you trying to seduce? Plus, the way this verse is delivered musically is so beautiful:
Is this the land of segregation?
Is this a place that we call home?
Don’t let the old style generation
Carry the flag for you and me no more (This is our war)
If there’s one song on this album I would make anyone listen to, it’s this one.
11. February Winds
I don’t know why I wasn’t thrilled with this song the first time I heard it, but having listened to it like 30 times by now, I really love it. I think maybe it was because it somehow reminded me of The Navy Song from II for some reason. But this song is far from The Navy Song.
It’s gorgeous. It once again is a perfect blend of original BT sound with modern melody. Staccato lyrics and melodic smoothness, plus the lyrics are on point.
It starts off perfectly right off the bat with:
Another, tragedy has
Set the scene for conscience to be revealed
And all the February
February winds are howling
Light up your book of matches
Open your hearts to action
We all need second chances
What reason to help but for love?
I mean, how damn appropriate is that, once again, with the current political and societal environment?
This is probably my second “LISTEN TO THIS SONG” recommendation off this album.
12-20. Reprises and Demos
So I bought the Deluxe version of this album, and I has 9 extra versions of songs and I am far too impatient to review.
HOWEVER, I can say that song 12, Afraid of Heights (Reprise) is a really gorgeous version of the original song. It starts off really weird and no matter how many times I listen to it, I can’t get past that first section of melody, but as it picks up, I find it has a beautiful hollow sound and a slower tempo than the original. It sounds refined and genuinely beautiful. It feels more steely blue, like the notes are bouncing off of clouds.
That’s the only version that I find worth talking about from this set of 9 songs. Actually, no, song 20, Afraid of Heights (Reprise) – Demo is also a beautiful version. It actually sounds even more hollow and slower than the other two and has a lot more guitar/bass. It seems to bounce off clouds even slower. I’m just in love with this song if you can’t tell.
Because I bought the Deluxe version of this album, I also received a little paper with instructions for downloading the album as a specially formulated version for headphones. My verdict on that is that I must need actual headphones and not earbuds, but I found the Spotify version to sound better. That sounds so pretentious and mean, but it’s true.
Wishlist: sound-blocking headphones. Who wants to be my sugar daddy?