"At one point when we were on the road, I felt like I had a target on my back. I felt like there were a lot of things getting thrown at me that I had to deal with and I felt alone? I was the only one who could really understand myself." - Adam Gontier
On One-X, the follow up to Three Days Grace's 2003 self-titled debut, the band explores that sentiment with alarming honesty. A raw, confessional album, One-X finds frontman Adam Gontier delving into a sense of utter loneliness that ironically comes from being constantly surrounded by other people. One-X is simultaneously the story of Gontier's personal destruction on the road and a universal tale of feeling like an outsider.
"From front to back, the lyrics of One-X explore the different problems I had. I felt singled out. I wanted to be normal and I just wanted someone, anyone to help me. At a point, I finally came to realize that no matter how singled out I felt, there were so many others out there like me. I realized, 'okay, I'm not alone'." - Adam Gontier
Part of learning he was not alone came from learning his band mates felt similarly isolated, dismayed with the falseness of life on the road.
"Being on tour can be strange sometimes," said bassist Brad Walst. "All these people around you seem to know you, but they really don't and you don't know them either, but you carry on as if you do. It's weird how you can still feel alone in a crowd of people. In fact the only ones we could really relate to were the true fans. They know what's going on inside your head because they are the ones that are hearing it in your music."
After two years on the road, the band was coming to terms with what they experienced. "The whole process tuned us into the phenomenon of urban isolation - being in a big city, where people are inches away, but you feel miles apart" said drummer Neil Sanderson. "We're used to the opposite, being from rural Ontario, where you're miles away physically, but you feel inches apart."
Oddly enough, the band escaped by isolating themselves again. Packing up, getting out of the city and moving into Ontario cottage country, the band eliminated all outside distractions to write One-X. "We basically wrote the record around a fire with acoustic guitars," said Walst. "It was all about getting back to our roots."
When the band emerged, they had a heavy, highly emotional album in hand. One-X is rife with anguish-fueled vocals, heavy beats and rough chords. Backed by the thunderous rhythm section of Neil Sanderson on drums and Brad Walst on bass, and the thrashing, urgent riffs of Barry Stock on guitar, One-X is a roller coaster ride through Gontier's psyche. Intensely honest, Gontier leaves nothing out; it sounds as if he's ripping pages from his journal.
"Pain" finds Gontier stubbornly adhering to the vices that hurt him, while letting in the voice trying to heal him. The almost sweetly melodic verses come from "someone telling me there's something wrong and you have to do something about it," says Gontier, while the grizzled choruses find him clinging to the pain.
"Animal I Have Become," the first single off One-X, is Adam's "realization that a change has to happen and you have to ask for help." With stomping bass lines backing him up, Gontier pleads, "Somebody get me through this nightmare / I can't control myself." It's also startlingly open, as he realizes the impact of revealing his lyrics: "So what if you can see / the darkest side of me."
"The road definitely got the better of us at times," said Sanderson, echoing the sentiment of "Animal I Have Become." "I know from my own point of view that you can kind of lose yourself out there and get caught up in the moment. It's just the lifestyle. I know Adam went through times when he would do anything to distance himself from the strangers around him. We were on a bit of a downward spiral out there but we pulled out of it."
While all of the tracks explore painfully personal struggles, "Never Too Late" was the hardest track for Gontier to write. Opening with a solitary guitar, which could easily signify loneliness, the track is instead the album's most optimistic song.
Adam admits, "It's the one that touches me the most when we play it live and when I listen to it now that the record's done, it still gives me shivers because it has so much to do with me. There's a sliver of hope in that song as well."
With lyrics like "Do you think there's no one like you / We are," "One X," the album's final song, is the one that Three Days Grace fans connect to the most. "It says you're not alone and there are lots of people out there like you," Gontier explains. "Having gone through these struggles, we are able to re-introduce ourselves and our music to our fans? It's time to let everyone else in on our lives over the last two years."
As we hear Gontier sing with his world-weary vocals at the end of the album, the band has developed a new sense of purpose; what started out as fear and pain has led to confidence and triumph.
"I need to figure out who's behind me," Adam sings in the album's final lines. "We are / We stand above the crowd."