Three Days Grace
showed promise with their last album, 2006’s One-X
, but their new record, Life Starts Now
, suggests that this Canadian quartet remain a frustratingly hit-and-miss affair. The problem isn’t that Life Starts Now
doesn’t have good songs – the problem is that there aren’t enough of them and that even the strongest moments feel overly familiar. Frontman Adam Gontier continues to expose his tortured soul, but without consistently gripping tunes to back up his anguish, Three Days Grace seem stuck in their misery rather than transcending it.
On paper, Three Days Grace have all the ingredients to be a successful mainstream rock band. Their alt-rock songs favor melodic choruses and vaguely amped-up guitars. Gontier sings about disillusionment and heartbreak in universal language that make his lyrics feel like the despairing thoughts of any listener. And with Howard Benson
producing, Life Starts Now
never lacks for a crisp, accessible sound. But even with all the pieces in place, the album fails to deliver reliably great songs. Sadly, Life Starts Now
’s missing ingredient is a wealth of inspiration. What Three Days Grace have instead is a real skill at constructing textbook radio hits, which keeps Life Starts Now
from being terrible but rarely pushes it toward the truly exceptional. Pounding tracks like “The Good Life” come across as perfunctory, while piano ballads like “Last to Know” overdo their maudlin emoting. The songs are plugged into conventional sonic structures, but they rarely add much to the formula.
Finding a Happy Middle Ground
Life Starts Now
hits pay dirt when Three Days Grace find a middle ground between syrupy breakup songs and aggressive guitar rockers. “Lost in You” is a Filter
-like mid-tempo love song featuring an arena-sized chorus. Going for a Nine Inch Nails
-style rumbler, Three Days Grace come up with “Without You,” which combines Gontier’s groans with soaring guitar solos. And the album’s title track closes the record with a seize-the-day sentiment that’s attached to a slowly building guitar melody. These tracks may be less overtly dynamic than the album’s more obvious singles, but they’re instantly engaging. Based on the merits of Life Starts Now
, Three Days Grace seem most comfortable writing touchy-feely tunes punctuated with a little hard-rock attitude, which might lose them respect among rock purists but will certainly help them gain traction among mainstream radio fans.
A Band Trapped in a Paradox
Despite an agreeable sound and solidly crafted tunes, Life Starts Now
never fully grabs your attention as a rock record. Three Days Grace are confronted by an interesting paradox: They want to be both an edgy hard rock band and a super-slick mainstream entity. It’s not impossible to merge those conflicting desires, but in the case of Life Starts Now
, the results end up being a lose-lose proposition. This Canadian band aren’t aggressive enough to really seem dangerous, and they’re not dazzlingly original enough to make their pop songs resonate. Consequently, Life Starts Now
is an oddly ironic title for this record – you wait for Three Days Grace to match the urgency of that sentiment, but it never quite happens.
'Life Starts Now' – Best Tracks:
“Lost in You” (Purchase/Download
“Without You” (Purchase/Download
“Life Starts Now” (Purchase/Download
“No More” (Purchase/Download
Release date – September 22, 2009