Formed in high school in 1993 as a band called Pezz, the artists now known as Billy Talent have been making their way through the Canadian rock scene for some time now. They have two multi-platinum records and took to a Led Zeppelin naming tack with their first three major releases. With Dead Silence, their fifth as a band and fourth as Billy Talent, these dudes set their legacy.
Led by the one-two punch of vocalist Benjamin Kowalewicz and guitarist Ian D’Sa, Billy Talent emerges on Dead Silence with a set of riff-heavy, pissed-off punk rock tunes. Bassist Jonathan Gallant and drummer Aaron Solowoniuk round out the group, thrashing and clawing away beneath.
Billy Talent takes the bold step of condemning the living shit of everything. From avaricious youth culture to pious extremists, Kowalewicz’s yowls and barks leave little ambiguity. The impact lessens when songs venture to talk of love and other such things, but Dead Silence still contains its share of spirited attacks.
After a brief acoustic-and-harmony intro track (“Lonely Road to Absolution”) that feels like a half-done homage to Green Day, Billy Talent strikes with the searing “Viking Death March.” The Green Day comparisons still abound, but this cooker winds with more intensity than American Idiot fared with its Johnny-come-lately vehemence. Kowalewicz takes down his opposition with blistering lines like “Down on your knees, you just don’t look so tall.”
The heat carries on with “Surprise Surprise” that calls out “upper class daughters and working class sons” for being “the target market of a corporate joke.” D’Sa’s riffs are urgent and deadly, pushing the fire along as Kowalewicz drops line after wonderful line of contempt and fury. “Our generation is a fucking joke,” he sneers.
Instead of shifting down, Billy Talent gears up with “Runnin’ Across the Tracks.” D’Sa roasts like Angus Young and Solowoniuk hammers hard.
The strand flags somewhat with the arrival of “Stand Up and Run,” but it’s hard to fault the need for a song about lost love after so much bile. Even in their scrawnier moments, Billy Talent manages a pointed approach that keeps things interesting.
Cuts like “Man Alive!” and “Love Was Still Around” keep the fires burning, though.
With Dead Silence, Billy Talent proves themselves capable of handling widespread themes with hunger and drive. This is a scorcher of a record, one that ought to stand out in an ocean of dainty, downy pop-punk consumerism. With true concern for the issues of our time and fine musicianship to match, the artists formerly known as Pezz really hit the mark.