Release date: March 15, 2011
Canada based quintet Art of Dying are proof that commercially viable hard rock and metal is not only alive and well, but making a triumphant return. If you’re one of those metalheads who feel that the only good music is caustic and black, then AOD is likely a band you’ll vilify. For those who still appreciate loud, raucus, feel-good arena anthems and Bic-lighter power ballads, then read on, because you’ll love this band and want this album.
Led by charismatic vocalist Jonny Hetherington and guitarist Greg Bradley, Art of Dying‘s sound manages to meld a classic rock sound, with a modern feel, all wrapped around our much missed and beloved 80’s hair metal style. The two have been together since 2005. In 2008, they rounded out the line-up with drummer Jeff Brown, and former Thornley members, bassist Cale Gontier and guitarist Tavis Stanley.
The band was signed by Disturbed members, Dan Donagen and David Dramian to their own Intoxication label on Reprise. Donegan had a production hand on this album along with Howard Benson (Halestorm, Papa Roach, Seether, Flyleaf).
Vices and Virtues marks the band’s major label debut, but it’s actually their second album. The band self-released an eponymous CD back in 2006, and several of the songs from that record make an appearance here as well.
The album’s debut single, “Die Trying” kickstarts the album, with an intro that pays homage to their Disturbed benefactors, (though drummer Jeff Brown says that is just happenstance). One almost expects to hear Dramain’s trademark “Wha,uh ah, uh ah!” But that’s where any similarity ends. From there the band puts it’s own stamp on the powerful fist pumper.
From there the album takes you into the infectious and addictive “Get Thru This”, which the band released as a single off their 2006 debut. This one gets lodged in your head and there’s just no shaking it. The song reminds all of us that we are stronger than we imagine we are, and when tested we will usually stand tall.
Next up is the track “Sorry”, which flows with a very Nickelback vibe. Perhaps it’s something in the Canadian water. The band shows off their harmonizing skills on this one. In this same mold is the radio ready “Completely”.
Looking for a good arena anthem? “Whole World’s Crazy” is another monster rocker you’ll keep returning to over and over.
For those who can’t resist a good power ballad. Vice and Virtues offers up two of them in the form of “I Will Be There” and “Best I Can”. The former could be a song written to anyone we love, but I imagine it as a father’s song to his child. A reminder that no matter what we go through in life, a broken arm, a broken heart, or going away to college, our love and support is always the grounding foundation. The latter track may again be a love song, but I hear it as the flipside to “I Will Be There”. We can never be perfect, and all we can do as friends, parents, and lovers is the best we can. Are these formulaic? Perhaps. But they are done with heart, and they make us feel good. That’s why we love songs like these.
Cale’s cousin, Adam Gontier (Three Days Grace) makes on appearance on the track “Raining”, which is more in the alternative rock vein, and shows off the band’s more modern side.
For those who would simply dismiss Art of Dying as another generic cookie cutter hard rock band, you’d be making a mistake. As the band sings in their gritty rock anthem, “You Don’t Know Me”, there’s simply too much judgment and presumption in this world. Narrow views and preconceptions. “You think you know me, you’ve got me figured out, you’re casting shadows, I’m casting doubt.”
There is nothing intrinsically new on Vices and Virtues, and often you’ll have a sense that you’ve heard it before. But in this case that sense of familiarity is a gratifying one. Like slipping into your favorite jeans for a night out with good friends. There are moments where Art of Dying shows glimpses of their unique style, and as they progress we’ll likely see them further define their signature. For now, as a melodic hard rock/metal fan, I’m happy to take this debut of radio ready rockers, and play it till I wear it out.