Believe it or not, Three Days Grace is starting to lighten up.
You might not be able to tell that as you're hit from the muscular guitar charge that makes up its third and newest album, Life Starts Now. There is still a dense, tense sound at work that will satisfy neo-metal and arena-rock devotees. But there is a different lyrical angle to the Toronto band's newest songs. Take the chorus to Life Starts Now's initial single, Break:
"Tonight, I start the fire," sings frontman Adam Gontier. "Tonight, I break away."
OK, so those aren't words of pure sunshine. But they signal a level of positive defiance, a move away from the darkness that often has pervaded the music of Three Days Grace.
"We took enough time off before making this record, so we were all pretty excited about getting back into the studio," said Gontier, who will perform with Three Days Grace on a co-headlining bill with Breaking Benjamin on Monday at Rupp Arena.
"It was just one of those situations where we were just ready to go because we had spent quite a while at home dealing with personal issues."
Gontier didn't elaborate on that, although recent interviews with other members of Three Days Grace said they had dealt with deaths and serious illnesses in their families after completing touring duties for the band's double-platinum-selling 2006 album, One-X.
Considering that Gontier had used stories of his own despondency and drug abuse to fuel the songs on One-X, it's no wonder that the hard-rock slant of Three Days Grace had grown increasingly dour. Indeed, a Break was in order.
"We've always been a real band," Gontier said. "Our lyrics are very real. I think people recognize that. I think they recognize that we're coming from a very genuine place. I turn on the radio these days and I hear a lot of bands that just try to write a melody and a lyrical hook. That's such a cliché. I mean, it may work on the radio, but the music always winds up sounding the same. I'm tired of hearing that stuff.
"Our goal, when we went into the studio this time, was to make a record that sounded real and sounded, to the listener, like they were right in the room with the band. And I think we did that.
"There are a lot of records out there right now that sound a bit shiny, a bit mechanical. We just wanted to sound a little more raw and real."
Three Days Grace formed in the mid-'90s out of an Ontario group called Groundswell. Initially, it was a trio made up of vocalist/guitarist Gontier, bassist Brad Walst and drummer Neil Sanderson. All attended high school in the east-central Ontario town of Norwood, a place where rock 'n' roll had no pulse.
"There was barely any music in that town," Gontier said. "When we lived there, there were maybe 1,500 people. You had to excel at either sports or school. Our first record was written about growing up there. So in a way, it was good for us because we had to get out of town just to make that first record.
The addition of lead guitarist Barry Stock in late 2003 made Three Days Grace a foursome. Things concurrently soared and crashed from there. The band charted a major radio hit with the caustic I Hate Everything About You and toured relentlessly for two years. That sent the debut album to platinum status and Gontier into rehab.
Flash forward to last fall. The more positive but still monstrously electric music on Life Starts Now allows the recording to live up to its name. It entered the Billboard album charts at No. 3.
"Every night is different for us," Gontier said. "But to be onstage playing with the band, ... that's the reason I got into music in the first place. The feeling you get is hard to describe other than there is no other feeling like it. There is no high from any drug or drink to equal getting onstage and having 5,000 or 8,000 people singing your songs back to you.
"That's what I'm in this for."