Released: Mar 11, 2016
Genre: Alternative Rock, Post-Grunge
Label: Republic Records
Number Of Tracks: 11
In their sixth album, "Us and the Night," 3 Doors Down try to spruce up their well-worn post-grunge style with some new sounds.
Us And The NightFeatured review by: UG Team, on march 18, 2016 1 of 3 people found this review helpful
Sound: Anyone who grew up in the '90s-'00s still has that small part of their brain that remembers the chorus melodies to 3 Doors Down's debut smash singles, "Kryptonite" and "Loser," that dominated the radio waves at the time, and their six-time platinum debut album, 2000's "The Better Life," ended up being the first rock album purchase for many of those growing millennials (along with Linkin Park's "Hybrid Theory" and Blink-182's "Enema of the State"). 3 Doors Down continued to ride that momentum throughout that decade, and along with more singles that would make it into heavy radio rotation ("Here Without You," "Train") and albums that would top Billboard charts (2005's "Seventeen Days" and 2008's self-titled), the band would also get some great opportunities to work with music legends, like Bob Seger and Rush's Alex Lifeson. But with the mentality of each succeeding 3 Doors Down record echoing the post-grunge trend that first earned the band their fame, the band's sound, as well as the genre at large, only managed to grow staler as the years went on.
In their sixth album, "Us and the Night," 3 Doors Down yet again work with the post-grunge formula they've always been working with, where their typical cuts of post-grunge rockers (like "Believe It") and rock ballads (like the acoustic/electric "Pieces of Me") essentially sound just like the ones that they wrote in their last album, and the album before that, and so on. Though that main flavor is still as bland of a continuation as can be, the band does earnestly try to spruce up their post-grunge backbone however they can, to mixed avail. As expected with any tenured rock band, some of this sprucing comes in a slightly bigger investment in production value, which is meager - the overbearing synth melody in "The Broken" isn't anything special, and the piercing synth layer lingering in the background of "Living in Your Hell" only manages to incessantly pester the mix rather than add depth to it - but there's also a sense of refreshment in the choice to not dive head-first into the bombastic production styling of arena rock, like many other mainstream rock acts have done lately.
Mainly, 3 Doors Down's attempts to freshen up their songwriting in "Us and the Night" can be taken at glass half-full or half-empty. They're modest variations to their post-grunge recipe in the grand scheme of things, but they're variations that nevertheless provide a bit of improvement. While the waka-chicka guitar strumming of "In the Dark" comes off gimmicky when paired with the sexually-charged subject matter, the pull-off riff in "Still Alive" has a hint of punk flair to it that differs from their typical post-grunge sound, and "I Don't Wanna Know" brings forth a Latin-inspired flavor with flamenco-style acoustic melodies and a guitar solo in the stylistic vein of Santana (though it's far from the skill of Santana). 3 Doors Down also try their hand at modulation, which hasn't been heard in their past few albums, and while the one-step modulation at the final chorus of "Believe It" is as basic as it gets, the modulation that occurs in the middle of "Fell From the Moon" and reverts later on is a more impressive songwriting trick. // 5
Lyrics: Going hand in hand with keeping up their familiar sound, frontman Brad Arnold also sticks to familiar subject matter with his lyrics in "Us and the Night." In contrast to the more lovey-dovey lyrics heard in the previous "Time of My Life," Arnold's emotional lyrics this time around skew more towards the negative, focusing especially on toxic relationships built on lies and deception (in "Living in Your Hell," "Love Is a Lie," and the fatal attraction of "In the Dark"), though this theme was first prevalent in "Seventeen Days." Arnold spends the majority of the album continuing his penchant for motivational lyrics, which has also dulled over time from overuse. He continues to churn out some songs about finding his own way, using the stereotypical "you only live once" type of message in "Inside of Me" that he used before in "Live for Today" or "It's the Only One You've Got," as well as writing again about overcoming the hardships of life in "Still Alive" and "Pieces of Me" that he wrote about before in "Never Will I Break." But in effort to not make the album all about himself, he also writes outside of his own perspective, and while the uprising anthem in "The Broken" is just a rudimentary rouser, the narrative of telling all hopeful musicians to never give up on their dreams in "Believe It" is pleasant, even if clichéd. // 5
Overall Impression: Compared to the last couple of albums where 3 Doors Down have stuck to their post-grunge recipe to a tee and entertained as little growth as possible, "Us and the Night" somewhat benefits from a hedging of the binary between staleness and freshness. While generally, the album sounds just like all the other post-grunge the band have put out before, the extra sonic adornments brought forth in their compositional repertoire are tangible examples of growth that end up standing out even more after the by-the-book staidness of their previous albums. Even still, it's far from being a, invigorating renaissance; 3 Doors Down are still rooted in their post-grunge home range in "Us and the Night," for better or for worse. // 5