So let’s establish this right from the get-go—Three Days Grace have never been good. They’ve regularly been stricken of even the most residual likability of the radio-rock set, in favour of swamp-brown post-grunge slurry without even a hint of deeper purpose or believability. There’s a reason that they’ve cornered a lot of the same market as the style-over-substance emo bands of the 2010s, namely because they’re just as shallow and transparent in their pandering, only without even the decency to feign some kind of engagement. It says a lot that when frontman Adam Gontier departed in 2013, he was replaced by Matt Walst, not only for some nepotistic ease as bassist Brad Walst’s brother, but as the sort of vocalist who wouldn’t even attempt to move the status quo. As such, it’s been like Gontier has never left; Three Days Grace continue to be a drastically limited band whose only key talent is astroturfing themselves for the easiest money-spinner possible. And lo and behold, as So Called Life opens and makes itself known with entirely nonspecific angst and waves of opaque sludge masquerading as an instrumental, we’re back to more of the exact same. The ever-present issues haven’t just magically gone away; clearly skewing younger already limits how visceral they can go, and Three Days Grace continue to see that as an excuse for being impossibly lame. None of their angst is believable, as Walst sings through perpetually clenched teeth to presumably sound more ‘forceful’ and ‘tortured’. In reality, all it does is make statements like “I don’t blame you for thinking I’m a little crazy / Maybe I’m too hard to love” on Someone To Love seem laughable, or an already weak self-esteem affirmation of “You think that everyone hates you / But I don’t” on Chain Of Abuse feel perfunctory and insincere. That’s always been a problem at Three Days Grace’s core, in that they really can’t sell or deliver anything even half as impactful as they believe their work to be. The songwriting is just too broad and bland to allow it, perhaps letting some genuineness seep through from relationship songs like Lifetime and Redemption, though even that’s being generous.
It’s where most of the preconceptions about Three Days Grace stem from, of a deliberately edgy band plying the usual swill to teenagers who’ll keep them afloat on some basis of ‘relatability’. It’s never going to change seven albums in, no less because again, Three Days Grace have no interest in that. It’s been at the point for a while where if you’ve heard one album, you’ve heard them all, but Explosions is maybe the most obvious showcase of that given how static the band feel creatively. Guitars and bass have volume but no drive or adequate power, while the ballads wind up just as treacly and saccharine as always. It’s all wrapped in a sound drastically past its use-by date at this point, the heaving post-grunge knuckle-dragger with no nuance or idea greater than a loud, bog-standard riff. Even on that standards of being purely anthemic and cutting out any frills, Three Days Grace are too lumbering and immobile to even carve something like that out. It’s the definition of a band treading water, for whom 2000s inertia is continually proctored by a fanbase who’ll somehow dig up some kind of appeal and cling onto those coattails for dear life. That’s why Explosions, for as deeply, unbudgingly lodged in Three Days Grace’s wheelhouse as it is, winds up as even less than what came before. There’s no reason for this band to continue when their ideas are so shallow and self-evidently bad, and they won’t even bother to make an attempt to do something that even encroaches on new or exciting. It’s effectively dead air to anyone outside of a diehard fanbase who needs to learn there’s much better music out there, that can offer the angst and catharsis that Three Days Grace traffic in while sounding sincere and true. When that’s out there and so readily available, Three Days Grace become entirely obsolete in record time.
For fans of: Breaking Benjamin, Seether, Hoobastank
‘Explosions’ by Three Days Grace is released on 6th May on Music For Nations.
Words by Luke Nuttall