I’ve been a fan of Three Days Grace since 2006, though I didn’t truly get into the band until somewhere around 2009 or 2010 after the release of Life Starts Now. I eventually went back and picked up One X, and I still wonder why I never grabbed it earlier. It remains their best album to date, and I can see it going down as a rock-n-roll classic.
When Adam Gontier left the band, I was pretty upset. For one thing, it’s hard to lose a vocalist like him, especially since he’s set the band’s tone for the better part of a decade; but more than that, I had tickets to see Three Days Grace, and the literal day before the show, Adam left. Matt Walst took his place, and thankfully, he wound up being a perfect fit. I’ve seen Three Days Grace live three times now, and each time Matt killed it on vocals. When they announced a new record, I was absolutely pumped.
Human is Three Days Grace’s sixth studio album, and I’ll say right now: I really like it. It sounds like a Three Days Grace album, which is either a huge accomplishment for a new singer or a deep flaw for a band that hasn’t really changed its sound up in…ever. I am equally relieved and annoyed at the same time when not listening to Human, but when the songs are playing, I hardly care. From start to finish, Human is a solid rock-n-roll album.
Like their other albums, Human is dark, depressing, lacking in guitar solos, and awash in great vocal melodies. The lyrics range from fantastic to laying-it-on-a-bit-thick, and vocally, Matt stays fairly low much like Adam did. The guitar work is mostly simple and mostly memorable, and song structure remains a consistent verse => chorus => verse = chorus => bridge => chorus.
Basically, it’s standard radio rock through and through, much like everything else they’ve produced as a band. As a fan of their sound, I’m mostly okay with that, yet after five albums, I was hoping Three Days Grace would use the excuse of a new singer to mix things up a bit. I now have four albums of theirs, and that’s a lot of songs that sound kind of the same, even if I like all of them.
As an album, Human is very similar to Transit of Venus, at least in terms of progression. Both start with depressing songs about humanity in general, yet both albums evolve into the sense that life is worth living, even if it has its rough parts. “Human Race” and “Sign of the Times” are almost identical in theme, and they share a similar lack-of-structure when compared to other Three Days Grace songs. The same can be said of “The End is Not the Answer” and “Unbreakable Heart,” though structurally, those are typical radio-rock tunes.
What differentiates Human from other Three Days Grace albums is its lack of relationship songs, which is a nice change of pace. There are a few to be found, sure, but they’re dressed up a bit better than the norm. The car accident metaphor in “Car Crash” is at least interesting, at least when compared to the straightforwardness of “Last to Know,” “Over and Over,” and “The High Road.”
It should be noted that, lyrically, Human is a bit more repetitive than other Three Days Grace albums, though that being a flaw or not is up to each individual listener. Repetition is a poetic tool, and I’m not about to begrudge a band for using it, even if the tool is perhaps overused in this case. At any rate, it makes learning the songs easier, and since they’re all fun to sing along to, I’m not complaining.
Now, I want to spend the rest of this review looking at each song individually. How much time I devote to a song will depend upon the song itself, so don’t be surprised if one has a few paragraphs while another has only half a sentence.
For the purpose of starting the album, both in tone and in its journey, “Human Race” does a fantastic job. I like it a bit less than “Sign of the Times,” which was a little more subtle and had more poetic imagery, but the sheer misanthropy of “Human Race” should be applauded. It’s thick without going overboard, and it’s very much Three Days Grace. The tune also has the only real guitar solo of the album, and it’s a good one. There’s a lot of emotion behind it, and I really wish the album had more of this kind of guitar.
I don’t have much to say about this one other than I think it’s a pretty good song. It’s been a radio single for quite awhile, and only God knows how many times I’ve poorly sung along to it while alone in the car. Lyrically, it’s good, and guitar wise, it rocks.
I really like story songs, and while “Fallen Angel” isn’t quite a narrative, it’s close enough. Here’s a song about an emotional rock for someone that’s secretly been struggling with her own demons until one day, she breaks down. It’s powerful, and I like the progression of it, starting off slow and soft until the chorus kicks in. It even has a kind of happy ending.
“Landmine” is one of my favorite songs on Human, and that all stems from its awesome vocal melody. Not only does this song make me want to sing at the top of my lungs, it also makes me want to mosh like a crazy person. It’s also the beginning of an introspective arc in Human, starting off with a damning look at the self.
“Tell Me Why”
The arc continues! I assume living like a landmine has caused a fallout, and the question of, “Why does everything I love get taken from me?” is rhetorical. Lyrically, “Tell Me Why” lays it on a bit thick, but I also think it works on the whole. I do like the chorus, at any rate.
“I Am Machine”
“I Am Machine” isn’t just my favorite song on Human, it’s one of my favorite Three Days Grace songs period. I absolutely love the vocal melody from start to finish, and lyrically, it’s the best on the album. The machine metaphor is a perfect look at depression, to yearn for a feeling of any type, even if it’s painful, yet not being able to feel anything at all. I also think the song can be looked at through a capitalist lens, all of us being mere machines for our 1% overlords.
“Landmine” started an introspective arc by looking at the self in a very negative, dangerous way. “Tell Me Why” and “I am Machine” continued this arc, moving onto loss and into pure depression, but “So What” brings us out of that arc. The person throughout these songs has finally embraced himself, and he’s now ready to say, “I like who I am, even if I’m a mess.” It’s a nice piece of progression, but more than that, it’s a nice break from the norm; Three Days Grace aren’t exactly known for their positive turnarounds.
As a song, it kicks ass.
As I mentioned above, “Car Crash” is a pretty cool song in its use of metaphor. I like the song, however, it’s also a bit on the repetitive side. The second verse is mostly just the first verse again, and the phrase “car crash” is used more than it probably needs to be. Musically, however, it has a nice progression, starting quiet and then ending loud and angry.
“Nothing’s Fair in Love and War”
Song topic is fairly self evident given the title, and honestly, the whole thing feels a bit derivative. Here is a Three Days Grace song through and through. I don’t hate the song, but all of the other ones on the album are better.
“One Too Many”
Human seems to forgo songs about relationships, but it certainly embraces substance abuse, or at least the idea of addiction. “Painkiller” doesn’t specify what is being used to kill pain, and “One Too Many” is just as nonspecific. This lyrical theme isn’t new by any means, but I like the lack of specifics this time around. It makes these songs more inclusive.
The song itself isn’t anything amazing, however. Like the others, I like it, but it’s fairly typical Three Days Grace.
“The End is Not the Answer”
What started off with a depressing piece of misanthropy in “Human Race” has slowly turned into something hopeful, and “The End is Not the Answer” is part one of that. Like the aforementioned substance abuse, songs about suicide aren’t a new topic for Three Days Grace, but the band always does a good job with them. “The End is Not the Answer” is no exception. I really like the lyrics and the vocal melody here.
“The Real You”
“Human Race” starts off Human on an atmospheric note, and “The Real You” ends the album the same way. The slow, peaceful piano that runs through the song adds something that isn’t in anywhere else in the album, and I’d have liked to see more piano sprinkled throughout. It’s not only a nice change of pace, it’s just damn pretty.
I like this song. The repetition of the “I” and “You” pronouns make it feel like I’m being spoken directly to, and the assurance in them is welcome. Sometimes, you just need to be told everything will be alright and that you’re not a bad person.