Three Days Grace: a new chapter

Replacing a singer can be a fairly easy task – just ask Iron Maiden. Yet sometimes, it can be a fraught affair which can alter the entire make-up of the band.

Thankfully for Three Days Grace, they seem to fall into the former category. My Darkest Days vocalist Matt Walst was enlisted by the Canadians in 2013 after long-time singer Adam Gontier called it quits and the alt-rock juggernaut continues to gain steam.

Initially recruited to tour, 32-year-old Walst later became a permanent member of the band and laid down vocals on their fifth album Human.

“It was a pretty comfortable recording process,” he reflects about the new effort. “I co-wrote on their first record and my brother Brad plays bass guitar in the band. I’ve known the drummer Neil since I was 10 years old, so I’ve been around the guys for a long time.

“Over the years, me, Neil and Brad had talked about making a band together, so it was pretty cool that what we talked about over the years actually happened. It was like fate.”

Human sees Three Days Grace go back to their roots by teaming up with long-time producer Gavin Brown – someone who Walst credits with propelling him into working in music full-time – and the band delve head-first into distortion and stripped-back rawness.

It features tracks like the single Human Race, which Walst says was penned about cities’ rat race culture in which people look out only for themselves and ignore the simple beauty of life and nature.

“We went back to the first producer and he definitely brings out the sound of the first album,” the vocalist says about the band channelling their previous work. “When they first started working with Gavin back in 2002, I was around for that. Actually, Gavin got me to make my own band, so it’s really cool to get to work with him – the guy that actually got me to pursue music as a career.”

But how does the album rank compared to a back catalogue featuring the likes of their much-loved 2003 self-titled debut and sophomore effort One-X?

“I think Human definitely stands up to the first couple of records,” he resolutely states. “People are really digging it.”

It all seems pretty seamless, then. But what about the fans? Some are always going to resent change as their beloved act shape-shifts…

“I understand where they’re coming from, for sure,” Walst admits. “You get used to one thing and then it changes – it’s hard to get used to. But I think a lot the Three Days Grace fans are digging something new – I think it’s gone over really well. We couldn’t be much happier with the fans’ response. But you’re always going to get haters. Mostly on the internet, behind the screens.”

But sometimes having ‘haters’ means you’re doing something right. “That’s how I look at it,” the singer adds. “I wonder how many haters Justin Bieber has, and how many people love him just as much as hate him – not that I’m anything like Justin Bieber…”

Walst reckons his arrival into the band is something of a fresh start for Three Days Grace, and it seems the fans are on board, with Human peaking at No.2 on the Canadian albums chart – two places higher than previous record Transit of Venus.

Their live reputation meanwhile continues to maintain its glow, with the group juggling new and old songs in their set. Some may think it is odd or intrusive to sing songs coined by another lyricist, but Walst’s history with the band means it’s anything but.

“I was around for a lot of the albums,” he says. “I’m a huge fan of all the songs, and it’s more of a pleasure than a burden singing them live to people. I love them just as much as any fan loves them.”

The singer’s first Three Days Grace record is still in its relative infancy, but Walst reveals that he and his comrades are “always writing”. And the band, it seems, are now in a pretty good place.

“After touring for so many years with the same guys, I think me coming in singing has brought a new energy to the band and revived why everyone does this,” he says. “It’s like a new beginning.”

Human is out now. The band play Download Festival on June 14.

Chris Cope

A writer for Prog magazine since 2014, armed with a particular taste for the darker side of rock. The dayjob is local news, so writing about the music on the side keeps things exciting - especially when Chris is based in the wild norths of Scotland. Previous bylines include national newspapers and magazines.