Nickelback: Dark Horse

You either really love Nickelback or you really love to hate them, but six albums later, they must be doing something right to have lasted for this long.

That something right could very well probably be one of the most commercial sounds to hit rock n roll (or metal even) since Bob Rock produced The Black Album for Metallica in 1991. The said sound is composed of repetitive chords, monotonous drum beats, and constant mentions to 'paperback novels' in the lyrics. If you don't mind any of the above, you'll be glad to know Dark Horse, the latest offering from the Canadian rock band is more of the same-but taken up a notch.

Produced by legendary superstar producer Robert John "Mutt" Lange - whose previous productions include the albums of Foreigner, AC/DC, Bryan Adams, Def Leppard and Shania Twain - give an almost clear indication that everything on Dark Horse will be radio friendly and as geared to the mainstream as heavy guitar rock gets.

The grizzly sound of post grunge is given a jump start with first track, 'Something in Your Mouth'. The guitars are raw, almost like nails on a chalkboard, with a continuous wail in the background. The riff is interspersed with a groovy middle but the combination seems to be too crammed and you feel like you've listened to two different songs at the same time. 'Burn it to the Ground' was featured on the Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen soundtrack and is characteristic of a Nickelback filler song because it shares the same structure to the track before it, but with just enough tweaks to make it sound slightly different. Unfortunately, this is probably one of the lesser lyrical songs of the band, making it sound more of an anthem for drunkards than anything. The saving grace for the song is the solo which albeit very short is could've been very interesting if explored further.

'Gotta Be Somebody' was the first single released from the album, and features another one of Nickelback's staple songs, the rock ballad. Chad Kroeger, the front man for the band, is at his true element here. After all he also sang the song 'Hero' for the Spiderman soundtrack. 'Hero' and 'Gotta Be Somebody' do share some similarities, but thankfully they aren't that much. This song proves that behind the grunge and behind the melodic rock, Nickelback can do so much better than it already is doing.

'I'd Come for You' is another ballad and the entire pace of the album slows down. The only thing that holds down this song are the cheesy lyrics: "I was blindfolded, but now I'm seeing, my mind was closing, now I'm believing." The song would make a befitting soundtrack to the next cheesy love story Hollywood throws our way.

The band makes it a point to pick up the pace after the previous track and 'Next Go Round' starts to hit the ground running. The harsh guitars and the throbbing drums sound like a freight train charging down at full speed. Again, like the previous songs, there isn't much lyrical substance going around here which is a shame really since the song has a very head banging thing going on for itself.

Just to prove that the band can do songs with proper substance and lyrical matter, 'Just to Get High' is just that. The story of a young man spiraling into a life of drugs and desperation, the tone and motif of the song equally desperate and melancholy. This is probably one of the few tracks on the album that save it.

'Never Gonna Be Alone' is what 'Photograph' was to the last album, the almost obligatory western track that the band feels that they have to do on each and every album. It's the kind of track that you'd expect from Shania Twain or LeAnn Rhimes, but Nickelback? On the plus side, it shows that the band wants to be diverse and not pigeon holed as a rock band.
About ten seconds into 'Shakin' Hands' you find yourself tapping your feet to it. The track sinks you in with its groovy beat but for some reason it never really takes off. The repetitiveness kills it.

The opening riff of 'S.E.X.', like the previous two tracks, are powerful and grab the listener in by the collar and demand to be heard. This is Nickelback's strength and why they're such a radio friendly band. Their music is simple and easy to listen to even if you don't appreciate or like rock music.

'If Today Was Your Last Day' sings the same tune as 'Gotta Be Somebody' or 'I'd come for you' but this one is considerably more feel good than the two. Also, much like 'Just to get high' this track saves the album from what would be a repetitive and monotonous demise.
The album finishes with 'This Afternoon' and it seems that keeping the best for last was probably a good idea for the band. This is a no-nonsense, easy going, feel good track about taking matters as they come and not have a worry in the world. It's almost like Nickleback saying they'll continue to making music the way they want to and won't give in to their critics.

All the Right Reasons was the band's previous release and spawned a plethora of singles, but this seems to be not for all the right reasons. The New York Times wrote about Dark Horse: "Nickelback's real crime isn't one of form. Rather it is that lurking beneath the band's undeniably pretty melodies are literal, wildly unimaginative and often insipid lyrics. Unlike, say, Hinder, which flaunts its brute sensibilities, Nickelback is quietly crass." And that was one of the better reviews they've gotten for Dark Horse.

That said, Nickelback has a very strong fan base, particularly among the listeners of bands like Creed (who are now defunct) or Alter Bridge or even Theory of a Deadman. These bands, along with Nickelback represent the new rock n roll sound, rising from the ashes of grunge and metal of the 90s and making a sound of their own for a generation of their own.

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