"Theory of a Deadman - The Truth Is…" Review
The Little Brother of Nickelback? (Background)
In 2001, Tyler Connelly came to Nickelback's vocalist/guitarist Chad Kroeger with a demo song from his recently formed band, Theory of a Deadman. Kroeger was impressed with the band's demo and he had the band signed onto his record label, 604 Records.
Theory of a Deadman's initial line up consisted of vocalist/guitarist Tyler Connelly, guitarist Dave Brenner, bassist Dean Back and drummer Tim Hart.
Connelly and Kroeger ended up working together on various songs that would end up on Theory of a Deadman's eponymous debut album, which was released in September of 2002. Theory of a Deadman met with mixed reception, with most critics noting how the band sounds very similar to Nickelback. The album spawned four hit singles; "Nothing Came Come Between Us", "Make Up Your Mind", "Point to Prove", and "The Last Song".
Before the band released their second album in 2005, Tim Hart left the band and was replaced by Brent Fitz.
The second album, Gasoline, also met with mixed reception. It spawned six singles; "No Surprise", "Say Goodbye", "Santa Monica", "Hello Lonely (Walk Away from This)", "Better Off" and "Since You've Been Gone".
Then another line-up change occurred when Brent Fitz left and was replaced by Robin Diaz.
The band's third album, Scars & Sourvenirs, became the band's breakout album upon release in 2008. It was met with mixed to positive reviews. It spawned nine singles, including the band's first #1 charting song "Bad Girlfriend" (which became the band's signature hit).
A final line-up change occurred when Robin Diaz left the band and was replaced by Joey Dandeneau.
Despite the band's success up until that point, Theory of a Deadman was criticized by many for sounding very similar to Nickelback. The band, to be fair, has been trying to differentiate themselves from Nickelback during their career. For example, Theory of a Deadman tends to follow more consistent themes within their albums (most prominently bad relationships and break-ups from the male perspective). They also tend to be more hard-edged with their lyrics, since their albums get the "Parental Advisory" sticker slapped onto them. And the band incorporates more acoustic and Southern rock elements into the post-grunge sound they usually go by.
Just for the record, I actually really like Nickelback in spite of what many critics and music fans say. So when I heard of how Theory of a Deadman sounded similar to them, becoming a fan of them was pretty quick.
Scars & Souvenirs helped Theory of a Deadman break out into the mainstream and (for the most part) give themselves a great opportunity to stand out from Nickelback. In my opinion, Scars & Souvenirs was a very well-balanced album for the band, since they managed to keep the integrity of their past efforts while appealing to the mainstream and being diverse. Naturally, one could believe that the band's fourth release, The Truth Is…, would be a great follow-up to such an album. However, upon the release of The Truth Is…, reception became harsh.
And after listening to this album myself, I can definitely see where this backlash is coming from...
Can't Get You Out of My Head (Song-By-Song Review)
Lowlife - The opening track of the album, as well as the first single released. The song is pretty straight-forward as to what it's about: being a lowlife and the joys of living such a life. The instrumental composition isn't all that interesting and the lyrics are fairly mediocre, but it's kind of a guilty pleasure for me, since it does have some fun tongue-in-cheek spirit. It's not a great starter for The Truth Is…, but it does it's job of setting up the album. (3/5)
B*tch Came Back - The album's third single. Oh boy…this is where the album shoots itself in the foot. It's a song that openly scathes the opposite sex in a very mean-spirited and insulting way. The actual intention of this song is that it scathes one who can't just go away. Admittedly, if this had been done properly, this song could've worked. But instead, we get treated to extremely forced and harsh lyrics that go out of their way to talk about everything seemingly wrong with women. To add insult to injury, the instrumental composition includes an out-of-place and borderline annoying orchestral arrangement added to it in a lame attempt to give the song some sort of classy feel. Nothing about this song works; it's crass, offensive and annoying. (0/5)
Hurricane - The album's fourth single. "Hurricane" proves itself to be one of the few stronger tracks on The Truth Is…. Unlike "B*tch Came Back", the orchestral music featured in the background actually kind of fits here. The lyrics are fairly decent and catchy enough to carry the song along and it's well-paced. (4/5)
Out of My Head - The album's second single, as well as the first ballad song on the album. While it aims for catchiness and emotion, "Out of My Head" proves to be a generic and uninteresting love ballad, with bland lyrics that we've heard my times before and boring instrumental composition. And considering that a song like "B*tch Came Back" was heard not too long ago, this song feels remarkably hypocritical. (2/5)
Gentleman - The album's fifth single. After a song like "Out of My Head", which attempted to be sensitive and emotional towards the opposite sex, "Gentleman" ends up shooting the album in the foot a second time. It really should've been called "B*tch Came Back, Part II", since this song follows similar sexist themes to that song. And like "B*tch Came Back", "Gentleman" features contrived and forced lyrics that just insult the opposite sex. It's like the album wants to be in poor taste at this point. (0/5)
Love is Hell - This song wants to be filled with angst about that idea of love. It does go that direction, but in a very dull way. It's lyrics feel contrived and uninspired. The only saving grace this song has to offer is a semi-interesting instrumental composition, where the guitar work feels on par with progressive metal. It's a "meh" song, at best. (2.5/5)
The Truth Is… (I Lied About Everything) - The album's titular song. While following up themes last heard on "B*tch Came Back" and "Gentleman", this song actually manages to handle itself a lot better by contrast…somewhat, anyway. It still scathes on the opposite sex, but in a more focused manner, since it scathes those who are actually unfaithful and/or liars. It gets it point across a lot more clearly, but it still remains misogynistic in spite of that. And for that matter, the one who does the scathing is extremely hypocritical, given that it's mentioned that he has cheated on his partner as well. (2/5)
Head Above Water - The album's sixth single. It's a fairly nice and catchy song from the album, even if it's instrumental composition is a little uninspired. The lyrics are things we've heard before, but it's one of the few songs that Theory of a Deadman have done that actually inspire some hope as opposed to the usual angst-ridden stuff they do, so it's kind of refreshing in a way. (3.5/5)
Drag Me to Hell - Another good guilty pleasure song on the album. Though, unlike "Lowlife", the lyrics aren't really that bad, since they're straight-forward in a good way. The instrumental composition is also quite decent, given the song a thunderous, fast-paced groove. (3.5/5)
What Was I Thinking - A hangover song and a love ballad combined…that's really what this song is. It's a strange combination, but it works to some degree. While it's instrumental composition is dull, the lyrics do have a tongue-in-cheek feel to them and it makes for a decent guilty pleasure. And unlike they other love ballads on the album, this one feels more at home here, since it matches the overall tone of the album. (3/5)
Easy to Love You - The album's seventh and final single. Much like "Out of My Head", the lyrics are bland and uninspired. It's instrumental composition, however, features progressive metal-esque guitar work (much like "Love is Hell") making it a more interesting song to listen to by contrast to "Out of My Head". (2.5/5)
We Were Men - The album's closing track, as well as the album's best song. While it's lyrical content makes it feel out of place on The Truth Is... (it's about the military and post-traumatic stress), it succeeds in being remarkably catchy and memorable. It's instrumental composition also feels quite inspired, with some unforgettable guitar noodling both at the beginning and end of the song. It's not the greatest war song ever, but it's still a good one and it at least ends the album on a high note. (4.5/5)
"Tyler, What Were You Thinking?" (General Overview)
The Truth Is… is an album that intends to appeal to a mainstream crowd, but it takes the worst approach in doing so. It's also a classic case of how success can lead to a band going in way over their heads with their material.
Theory of a Deadman, in their past efforts, managed to maintain a sense of integrity and heart in their music. Even at their weakest moments, they still had that going. And when they were having fun in the music, they knew how to handle it properly. None of this really exists on this album. Instead, they replace integrity for mediocre to poor tongue-in-cheek humor that really isn't all that funny. And when they aren't doing that, they deliberately attack the opposite sex with insulting and contrived lyrics.
Tyler Connelly's vocal work has slowly changed over the years, but in a very strange way. His vocals have gone from a gruff, angst-ridden and experienced-sounding man in the band's debut to a borderline Chad Kroeger-copycat sound on this album and it does hurt the album a lot more upon retrospective listenings to the past albums of this band. And the rest of the band's instrumental work here is quite lacking in inspiration and strength.
Say what you will about Nickelback, but even they don't usually sound as bad as this album, even at their worst. Theory of a Deadman nearly jumps the shark on this album, and even it's guilty pleasures and genuinely good songs can't make up for how bad The Truth Is… has turned out.
The band is currently in pre-production of their fifth album at the time of this writing. All I can hope is that Theory of Deadman can reclaim their integrity in this upcoming release. They aren't really a terrible band, but this album will sadly give their detractors whole new reasons to hate them.
The final score?
1.5/5 - Almost Can't Recommend