Billy Talent channel intellectual rage on second album

photo courtesy warner music


Billy Talent perform Saturday night at the Civic Centre, playing a string of hits from their debut album and their recent follow-up, Billy Talent II.

It might be a strange and legitimate musical phenomenon, or it could just be a convenient label thought up by music critics looking to dismiss an artist’s second album, but the dreaded “sophomore curse” does seem to plague many successful bands.

For Billy Talent, the hard-rocking quartet who has torn up the radio airwaves with hits like Try Honesty and River Below, making a second album had less to do with overcoming musical superstitions, and more to do with producing the kind of record that satisfied their own expectations.

“We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to raise the bar on what we accomplished on our first record,” bassist Jon Gallant explains during a phone interview from his Toronto home.

“I think the sophomore curse is usually a result of record companies pressuring bands to get an album out so they can capitalize on the success of a first album and we did get some pressure to hurry, but we just said we need more time.”

So three years after debuting their award-winning self-titled album, vocalist Ben Kowalewicz, guitarist Ian D’Sa, drummer Aaron Solowoniuk and Gallant, released Billy Talent II, a rollicking rock album that’s already spawned popular singles Devil In A Midnight Mass and Red Flag.

Gallant says their new album still has the same “dynamic, hard, simple rock” fans and critics have come to enjoy and expect. What’s changed is the theme.

“A lot of great things have happened to us, and so I don’t think there’s as much anger on the last one. Now we’re talking more about trust, and lack of trust in life,” he explains.

Even front man Kowalewicz, known for his unique and powerful voice, has toned down the musical temper.

“I don’t want to be known as the Scream Guy, so I’ve worked on that. When you’re telling a story you need commas and periods,” he says.

But that doesn’t mean the band has lost the intellectual rage that helped make them famous. Lyrics on many of the tracks have a decidedly political focus, while others concentrate more on the personal experiences of the band members.

And Gallant says he and his bandmates, who formed more than a decade before finding mass commercial success, still thrive on playing live for their fans.

“I still have so much fun playing all the songs off our first album even though I’ve done it hundreds and hundreds of times. The live show is just the greatest feeling.”

if you go

  • Billy Talent plays at the Civic Centre on Saturday night with guests Rise Against, Anti-Flag and Moneen. Tickets range from $24.50 to $39.50 and are available at