One of the best things about Billy Talent is and always has been their reliability. That might sound a bit hollow—after all, the Foo Fighters are reliable, and they’re the poster boys for rock’s middle of the road—but the benefit of a high floor and ceiling has always worked in Billy Talent’s favour. Even on their ‘weaker’ albums (and blow those quotation marks to an enormous scale at that), they’ve always been a profoundly vibrant and likable band, the sort of punk that can wear its bite and its big heart with equal prominence. The implicit parallels to Rise Against have always been there in a parlance for ‘radio-rock’ accessibility that pairs with their punk ethos rather than working against it, but Billy Talent feel more at home in that environment overall. If anything, it’s refreshing to see them lean into so greatly with Crisis Of Faith, juggling an advanced longevity that fits the mainstream rock rubric with unshakable earnestness and the quality of just being the most enjoyable band around, all done pretty much masterfully. But even that’s ignoring the vicegrip that Billy Talent continue to have on all-around terrific composition and creative impulse; ‘radio-rock’ bands aren’t opening their albums with Forgiveness, a seven-minute prog-pop banger that sinks into a jazzed-up sax line in its second act. Even on the most fundamental level though, Billy Talent are simply leagues ahead of the competition within this more straightforward lane. Hanging Out With All The Wrong People will be the most instantly catchy song to come out this year, that can basically be locked in now, but there’s nothing close to approach a dud on here, no matter which way you slice it. That generally comes from how the band’s effortless lyrical metre still hasn’t lost its sheen, on that track but also notably on the likes of Reckless Paradise and End Of Me, as a means of forming that momentum and tempo that’s so deeply embedded in every song here.
But then there are songs like I Beg To Differ (This Will Get Better) and Reactor, lodging themselves in the big-hearted, skyscraping mould that wouldn’t be out of place from a band like the Foo Fighters, but from Billy Talent, the earnestness feels a lot more genuine and connecting. They aren’t the sort of mega-band who can be disconnected from the trudge of getting through an unkind, uncaring society, and so their sentiments of positivity and batting back against the injustice hold much more weight. Similarly, a sub-two-minute punk firebrand like Judged winds up the tension ready to be let loose in Billy Talent’s typically enormous fashion, and it serving as the centrepiece to the album feels like that punk mission statement is still clearly in view. You’ll also find that in the drive behind the exection, particularly in how imperative Jonathan Gallant’s bass work is. Billy Talent’s music has a wiry, anxious energy to it that even the transition to grander climes hasn’t dulled, with Ian D’Sa’s sharpened guitars and Ben Kowalewicz’s vocals—those vocals simultaneously imbued with screeching, acerbic barbs but also the most tunefulness imaginable—feeling as comfortable within the mix as ever. To nitpick the sound…maybe End Of Me has been tailored more to fit Rivers Cuomo for his guest appearance than Billy Talent’s own telegraphed strengths, but that’s barely anything worth getting worked up about. Even For You, the closing, acoustic-driven love song that has every opportunity to cloying and mawkish, manages to hold its own rather well; it’s not the best song here, but again, it’s vying against genuine contenders for the very top come the end of the year. That feels so great to say about Billy Talent too, on this album in particular. It’s been a while since they’ve come out with a truly excellent new release, and with every pitfall that comes from an easier melodic rock sound deftly avoided, they’re reaching the stage of scene statesmen in stellar fashion. As far as straight-up rock music goes—and indeed, most of rock music on the whole—Billy Talent aren’t going to be topped this year, not a chance.
For fans of: Rise Against, Sum 41, Anti-Flag
‘Crisis Of Faith’ by Billy Talent is released on 21st January on Spinefarm Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall