Dark Horse

Dark Horse

As one might expect for a band that was essentially managing itself during its rise to fame, Nickelback's independent streak runs deep. And through their group's journey to becoming one of the most commercially successful rock acts of the 2000s, Chad Kroeger and his bandmates steadfastly developed their own creative vision rather than allowing any outsiders to impose their own. Maybe that's why it's so exciting to hear Nickelback's sound get reconfigured and reinvigorated as a result of the band's first matchup with a superstar producer, one who has more than a few sonic trademarks of his own. The Alberta post-grunge band's sixth album, Dark Horse, was recorded with Robert John "Mutt" Lange, the rock legend whose credits include such game-changing albums as AC/DC's Back in Black and Def Leppard's Pyromania. Lange's forte for high-impact, high-density hard rock would be fully evident here even if Chad Kroeger didn't let loose with a Joe Elliott-worthy "c'mon!" like the one in "Something In Your Mouth." But for all the explosive energy of songs such as "Burn It to the Ground," the collaboration also bears fruit in "Gotta Be Somebody," the kind of supersized heartland rocker that Lange provided for Bryan Adams in the '90s. The song that elicits Kroeger's most impassioned vocal performance here, "Never Gonna Be Alone" is cut from the same hardy cloth. Regardless of the direction Nickelback wants to go with the producer, Lange’s company frees the band up to take some chances and have some fun. On "Shakin’ Hands," "Next Go Round," and the self-explanatory "S.E.X.," the band is unapologetically carnal in its fixations, guitarist Ryan Peake enhancing the songs' enjoyably sleazy nature with plenty of greasy, ZZ Top-worthy licks. Even "This Afternoon"—wistful nostalgia about its younger days—boasts an appealingly raucous edge, with Kroeger reminiscing about living in a hard-partying house full of roommates over a feisty, country-rock groove. With Lange on its side, the band takes the chance to shake up what it does, all without losing the aspects that bond Nickelback so firmly to its fans.

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