Billy Talent – Afraid of Heights

After four (long!) years, the fifth Billy Talent album has arrived.

By Jane Howkins

While the band teased a few new songs in 2014 on their greatest hits collection Hits (Kingdom of Zog was a particular highlight, and one that needs to be heard if it hasn’t been already), a full album is what people have really been waiting for, and Afraid of Heights has definitely been worth the wait.

Before people rush to buy the CD though, it must be said that this album is a little less accessible than previous efforts. It’s not that the band have gone off and done anything ridiculously weird (although the synth effects on Horses and Chariots are new), but the songs are perhaps less ‘hooky’ (for want of a better phrase). The songs are still catchy, but it takes a few listens to appreciate that (which is a good thing) and they sound somehow more fleshed out than some of the other more pop-based songs the band have released.

The album also sounds a lot angrier, although that may be to do with the walls of sound that seem to have developed here. This Is Our War and Big Red Gun are particularly angry affairs. They’ve always been slightly political in nature, but Ben and co. have definitely stepped this up a bit. Both songs are a commentary on modern day society.

One thing that is ever so slightly missing are Ian’s trademark riffs. His guitar work was one of the things that made Billy Talent who they are, alongside Ben’s very distinctive vocals. While it’s still there, he seems to have gone down the route of playing groovy, chord based riffs, instead of the single note, jazzy, even sometimes Baroque-sounding, riffs that he used to play. That’s just a minor niggle though as the songs here are still generally great, although it would be nice to hear that identifiable fretwork in action more next time.

It’s nice to hear the band back on form and doing something a little different. Afraid of Heights is an album that’s good the whole way through.

Afraid of Heights was released on 29 July 2016.