Customer Reviews: Dark Horse
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on November 18, 2008
Nickelback's new album brings with it the first major sonic change since signing with EMI and Roadrunner Records (with the possible exception of "The State"), largely due to influential producer "Mutt" Lange coming out of his "rock-music-scene retirement" of 8 years and putting his two-cent's worth (and those are two HUGE pennies) in on the record.

Well known for his uncanny ability to transform a stagnant band or artist into an overnight success, Lange helped save bands like Foreigner and Heart...not to mention what he did for AC/DC and Def Leppard.

While Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger still co-produced on Dark Horse, you knew things would change because with Lange, there is only one right way to do things. Obviously, with the huge success the band has had under Kroeger's leadership and production, especially with 2005's "All The Right Reasons" still going strong after selling millions, this wasn't a "save" situation...just a great opportunity for Kroeger and company to work with a legend.

The result is sort of a "Nickelback meets the 80's" record, and the best way to describe the sound is BIG, FAT and THICK...with little dynamic range...and guitars and drums being priorities. If you're a fan of 80's hard rock in the vein of AC/DC and Def Leppard, read no'll love this album.

However, if you're like me and prefer the more natural sound of Kroeger's previous efforts, you may have an issue or two with this record. This sounds a little too manufactured and processed for my tastes. Lange's influence is all over this album, including how the songs themselves come across. He's definitely made this into an arena rock record filled with hard rock/heavy-metal type a whole it sounds like one major jam session with all dials on ten (except for some of the always-included, mid-tempo Adult Contemporary ballads).

Multi-layered background vocal chants and special effects are everywhere, and my biggest beef is with the drum sounds...Lange's trademark electronic-hybrid snare drum sounds are way over-the-top for me. If I wished to hear this type of production today, I'd rather dust off my old Def Leppard and AC/DC tapes and listen to those...I don't need to hear it on a 2008 Nickelback record.

That being said, some of the songs aren't half-bad..."Dark Horse" gets off to a fast start with the incessantly infectious "Something In Your Mouth"...based on a repeated, extremely catchy guitar riff that once in your head, is there to stay. "Gotta Be Somebody" is one of Nickelback's best mid-tempo AC tunes in a while, and "I'd Come For You" is similar, though slower-paced. Interestingly, "Mutt" Lange's production style doesn't seem to hurt the power ballads...they may have actually benefited from the change.

But when the heavy, straight-forward rock songs come back in, the over-production ruins it for me...on "Next Go Round", the transducer vocal processor makes Chad sound as if he's singing through a cardboard paper-towel roll tube connected to a distortion pedal... at least the chorus is hot and catchy. The top half of the lineup is strongest, and after another solid power ballad "Never Be Alone", "Dark Horse" begins to fade down the stretch in terms of song quality, and limps to the closer, "This Afternoon". This country-flavored tune doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the collection, and it has a chorus that sounds like it was copied and pasted from a Def Leppard album.

All in all, the record has its moments, and the average listener won't be bothered by the loss of a natural, "real"-sounding character, and may actually come away quite impressed by the stacked, multiple-overdubbed, super-polished production.

I think Nickelback was doing just fine under Kroeger's direction, and it begs the question, "Why fix what ain't broke?" For me, the new sound leaves a lot to be desired, and in the end, "Dark Horse" fails to finish.
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You know, I really try to approach every music review with very little expectations; I've found that it makes it much easier for me to truly sit back and enjoy what the artists are doing on any album. This may not make me the best critic in the world, however, because I tend to ignore some of what's come before musically, lyrically, historically, etc. ... but I think it keeps me true to myself.

That said, today's Nickelback doesn't sound like yesterday's Nickelback so much. Sure, three albums ago, they may've had a harder edge, whereas today's Nickelback does seem to flirt more with a mainstream sound. That isn't necessarily a bad thing; I think the great danger it poses to a group is that may develop a bit of predictability ... but ask any serious Nickelback fan from the group's first album IF he would've expected the band to end up here and I'll bet THAT he never would've predicted. It shows that the band has tried to evolve, which is more than many bands ever try to do. It shows that they're striving for staying power -- growing a fan base -- and I can give 'em props for that.

Something in Your Mouth (4.5 out of 5)
Wake the kids, folks, we're talking serious sex education here with rock'n'roll the way it was meant to be rocked and rolled.

Burn It to the Ground (5 out of 5)
Classic bad boy rock.

Gotta Be Somebody (4.5 out of 5)
Hear me out on this one, heavy metal purists. Somewhere between writing music and selling records, every artist has had to reach a compromise. Around the time the band penned & performed "Photograph," metal purists wrote off Nickelback saying that they went 'mainstream' in order to cash in But even Robert Downey Jr convinced Gwenyth Paltrow to take a role in IRON MAN by asking her, "Aren't you tired of making these great little films that no one sees?" Cut Nickelback some slack. With "Photograph" and tracks like "Gotta Be Somebody," they're selling MORE records, bringing more fans to their music, and growing the biz. Hats off, boys.

I'd Come for You (4.5 out of 5)
Nothing much to add other than the score. Like the sound, like the sentiments. I'll leave it at that.

Next Go Round (5 out of 5)
Serious headbangers are gonna need an MRI after listening to this one. Thank God for metal.

Just to Get High (3.5 out of 5)
Drugs destroy lives. It's about time someone started fighting back.

Never Gonna Be Alone (4.5 out ot 5)
Great rock ballad. Even safe for weddings! Love lasts. It ought to be celebrated.

Shakin' Hands (11 out of 5!!!)
Now that's what I call rock. "She ain't no Cinderella while she's getting undressed b/c she rocks it like the naughty Wicked Witch of the West!" Sure, she didn't get that far by "shakin' hands." Best bad li'l girl song I've heard in a long while.

S.E.X. (4.5 out of 5)
Spelling was never this fun in school. Only metal could write a song like this. You don't hear Martina McBride singing it.

If Today Was Your Last Day (3.5 out of 5)
This territory has already been probed by any musical style. Not a bad song, just nothing new here. Been there, done that. And, yes, Martina McBride has even sung about it.

This Afternoon (4 out of 5)
What?! Dare I say it ... a feel/good song? Major props for mentioning CCR (Credence Clearwater Revival, for the uninitiated). It's easy to forgive such confections, though it does feel more than just a bit out of place on this album.

Overall, a very solid experience. A bit uneven on sound -- maybe vacillating too much toward mainstream rock than most folks (even critics) would've liked, but I'll forgive Nickelback for putting in the effort. There's plenty here to celebrate, even for a "Dark Horse".
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on November 18, 2008
good cd, not another ATRR, but they never meant it to be. every song is enjoyable, and although not a musical masterpiece, i never judge nickelback in the vein of "musical masterpiece", simply on the enjoyment factor, which is high with some rock songs, such as the lead rock single, somthing in your mouth, and some of their signature ballads, such as never gonna be alone.
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on October 4, 2012
Nickelback has had a decent history and "Silver Side Up" wasn't bad but this one was redemption. I feel they redeemed their crappy music stumble they had for a small while. I can't say there is not a song on this album I don't like. They also stepped away from their "good boy" persona and got a little dirty as is evident in their song titles. I absolutely love this album and highly recommend it to any Nickelback fans!!
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on September 26, 2011
I am going to admit that I wasn't much of a Nickelback fan until the All the Right Reasons album. This one is almost as good. There are several songs you can jam to on this album. I have read a lot of reviews that state that these guys are "too generic" and their songs lyrics are "amateurish at best", but I have to disagree. Nickelback's track record is solid and this album only justifies their status as one of the best bands to ever come out of Canada. I'd give this album a little higher rating, but a few songs are a little too risque for younger listeners.
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on November 18, 2008
Sequels sometimes have a lot to live up to but this one doesn't disappoint. It has the capacity to appeal to a variety of tastes depending on the song from the romantic to bold rock. Some of the language is a little much for me on a few songs but it's like I said that there is something for everyone.

For me, the highlights and soul of the album in track order:

Gotta be somebody (Easily the best song that anyone can identify with)

I'd come for you (Makes my heart melt)

Never going to be alone (Probably will be heard at a few weddings)

S.E.X. (Straight to the point but a good tease too)

If today was your last day (Good way to approach each day)
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on June 5, 2012
I enjoy many varieties of music genre. This is a great CD with wonderful songs when I am in that mood. Bought it for one song (not really the best idea a lot of times) and have not been disappointed in the other songs too! Can't say they are my favorites but the song "If Today Was Your Last Day" is amazing! It's the song that hooked me on their music to take a moment and listen carefully to their words. Great song messages in them all! You won't regret purchasing this one to support these artists!!!!
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on January 24, 2013
My son loves this group so I bought this CD and a couple of others by Nickelback for him. He told me to give it a 5 star rating so that's what I'm doing. I guess it all depends what age group you're in and I'm way past the younger generation. LOL.
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VINE VOICEon May 24, 2009
This album is not for everybody. It is not especially original, but if you are nostalgic for an 80s arena rock style then this very well may be worth the cost of admission for you. I would have given 3 /12 stars if I could have. And subjectively, I may have given a 4. But as much as I am one of those people who gets nostalgic I wanted to give an objective score that takes into account the fact that, true, the music here is not particularly unique or stand out as different, and the lyrics are quite frankly very trashy. This album does not break any new ground but it does improve on the 80s arena formula. The biggest influence on this album to my mind is Def Leppard. If you like them, you will probably enjoy this album. This album definitely rocks the house compared to previous Nickelback albums and for that I prefer it. Their other work was too radio-friendly and safe for me. I need edgier stuff and Nickelback delivers on that count here. If you want a throwback to, and improvement on the arena style rock, and if the "dumbed down" frat house lyrics don't bother you this album is worth another look, even if you don't like Nickelback's other albums. I didn't think I would like it and then had the opportunity to listen to the whole thing for free and was glad I had the chance. I bought it after that. It is not a "great" album but it is a good album. The older style and raunchy lyrics will definitely put some people off, however.
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on October 31, 2011
Dark Horse from Nickelback is one of the most mediocre efforts I've ever heard. While there are some great songs (Burn It To The Ground, If Today Was Your Last Day, and the ballad tracks), most of this record falls completely flat, and some songs have allude to sexual content, which plagues the rock genre in general, especially in the appropriately titled, "S.E.X". Why the heck does this appeal to so many people? I don't understand. Also, another song named Next Go Round states the following:

I wanna cover you with Jello in the tub
We can roll around for hours without ever coming up
I want you naked with your favorite heels on
Slap John Deere across my @$$ and ride me up and down the lawn

This is some of the worst material Nickelback has come up with, and some of the worst I've ever heard in the rock genre, no offense to the band in general, because they can come up with good material. Also, this part of the song is really uninspired, and also makes you scratch your head.

Well, all I can say now is, when Here and Now comes on November 21, 2011, they had at least step up their game, and at least tone down the sexual content. Kroeger, that's all I'm asking. Is that complicated?

Rating: 2 stars/5 stars
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