With their fourth album, All the Right Reasons, Nickelback ditch any pretense of being a grunge band and finally acknowledge they're a straight-up heavy rock band. Not that they've left the angst of grunge behind: they're a modern rock band living in a post-grunge world, so there are lots of tortured emotions threaded throughout the 11 songs here. But where their previous albums roiled with anger -- their breakthrough "How You Remind Me" was not affectionate, it was snide and cynical -- there's a surprisingly large sentimental streak running throughout All the Right Reasons, and it's not just limited to heart-on-sleeve power ballads like "Far Away" and "Savin' Me," the latter being the latest entry in their soundalike sweepstakes. No, lead singer/songwriter Chad Kroeger is in a particularly pensive mood here, looking back fondly at his crazy times in high school on "Photograph" ("Look at this photograph/Every time I do it makes me laugh/How did our eyes get so red?/And what the hell is on Joey's head?"), lamenting the murder of Dimebag Darrell on "Side of a Bullet" (where a Dimebag solo is overdubbed), and, most touching of all, imagining "the day when nobody died" on "If Everyone Cared" (which would be brought about "If everyone cared and nobody cried/If everyone loved and nobody lied"). Appropriately enough for an album that finds Kroeger's emotional palette opening up, Nickelback try a few new things here, adding more pianos, keyboards, and acoustic guitars to not just their ballads, but a few of their big, anthemic rockers; they even sound a little bit light and limber on "Someone That You're With," the fastest tune here and a bit of relief after all the heavy guitars. All this makes for a more varied Nickelback album, but it doesn't really change their essence. Sure, they stretch a little bit, but they still favor clumsy, plodding riffs, still incessantly rewrite the same chords and melody, still harmonize exactly the same way on every song, Kroeger still sounds as if he's singing with a hernia, he still writes shockingly stupid lines that make you long for the days of such subtle double-entendres as "she's using her head again" (such as "She'd be pissed if she could see the parts of you that I've been kissing," "It's just a little hard to leave/When you're going down on me" -- and, mind you, this album does not carry a Parental Advisory sticker, even though "a**holes" is prominently used in two songs), and despite the attempted sarcasm of "Rockstar," he still shows no discernible sense of humor. Which means, despite all their newly developed relative nuances, Nickelback remain unchanged: they're still unspeakably awful.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine