Like many heavy guitar bands who surfaced at the tail-end of the '90s, 3 Doors Down
have reverted to comfortable old habits in their advanced years, shedding some of the post-grunge trappings of their hit album in favor of a slightly more conventional sound, one where classic rock mixes it up with '80s metal. Not that the boys have gotten fun on their eponymous 2008 album. Some of the cavernous murk has lifted, some of the sonics have straightened out, replaced by something that's heavier yet still leaden -- as typified by the opening "Train," which lurches with the intention of turning into a Southern-fried Skynyrd
rocker but never quite does -- but the group is inherently indisposed to having a laugh. Naturally, a group this earnest does sing about matters of life and death, as on "Citizen/Soldier," a salute to America's National Guardsmen, that wound up being used in a National Guard recruitment ad in the year prior to the release of 3 Doors Down
, but there's heartfelt searching, like when singer Brad Arnold
complains that "It's Not My Time," or the many times he decides he just has to be himself, thereby exhorting his fans to do the same. All this moodiness is set to guitars that surge, not really riding any riffs but rather pushing his pleas forward on Walls of Sound so compressed and cleansed they wind up sounding like mush. And that's the ultimate irony of 3 Doors Down
as they mature: try as they may to pour out their angst-ridden hearts, by riding out their success and smoothing out their music they've turned into mildly aggro background music at malls and movie theaters across the nation.