Review Summary: Another excellent album by one of today’s greatest mainstream rock acts.
American rock band Alter Bridge has made quite a name for themselves over the past five years. Their debut, One Day Remains
was certified Gold and, while heavily still Creed-influenced, showcased Tremonti’s stellar guitar playing and Myles Kennedy’s amazing vocal abilities. Its follow-up, Blackbird
, ditched the Creed-influences and created one of the few masterpieces in modern rock. Leading up to the present day, ABIII draws influences from all of the band’s works and meets all expectations and creates one of the most compelling rock albums of the year thus far.
One noticeable feature of the record is the larger emphasis on experimentation with the bands formula. While every track follows a decently standard verse-chorus structure, songs will progress and change emotionally for the length of their runtime. No track is epic as the title track of its predecessor, but instead these tracks all build to a satisfying ending reminiscent of My Own Prison-era Creed. Album opener “Slip into the Void” begins slowly and utilizes atmospheric elements. After the first verse, the song explodes into a flurry of low-tuned riffage. The chorus soars and will be stuck in your head for days. The tempo picks up as the bridge and guitar solo intertwine. It goes back into the chorus and ends with some more intense riffage. The only huge flaw with the album is that this emotional build-up becomes predictable from being used in too many of the songs. It becomes repetitive a bit too quickly.
Myles Kennedy’s vocals are still just as brilliant as ever and Tremonti still knows how to play guitar, but instead of repeating the same formula as previous works, AB III features changes from an instrumental perspective. Almost every track utilizes the drop A guitar tuning, including a surprising portion of the ballad tracks, giving them a thick, heavy groove. Many of the tracks revolve around more controlled aggression, often opting out of the standard chugging for a darker acoustic passage or atmospheric lead. The tracks focus far less around the almost inevitable guitar solo and instead around the intense riffs and the magnificent vocals. Kennedy also showcases his ability to hold his own against Tremonti as a guitarist, playing solos on a couple of the tracks including “Show Me a Sign” and “Isolation”. The less noticeable members of the band have also improved. The bass is more audible now, giving each song a bit more of a groove. While he doesn’t ever stand out, he doesn’t typically follow the guitar part and shows he has some technical ability in heavier sections. Drummer Scott Philips also has improved; utilizing a standard beat far less often and has worked on making his fills more effective, often fitting with the mood of the song much better.
As hinted at above, the album grows a bit tired on repeat listens. The build-up of the tracks (quiet verse, loud chorus, all building up to an epic finale) works very effectively in theory and sounds amazing on the first couple tracks. However, these tricks are repeated over and over again throughout the CD. It becomes a decently predictable record by the time “Words Darker Than Their Wings” comes on. A smaller gripe with the album is the last track. While it is in itself a great song, it doesn’t give the album a grand finale utilized on both of the band’s previous albums.
These are all relatively small complaints, however, and do not harm the album much at all. At the end of the day, no one will care that Blackbird
is still the superior album. The bottom line is that the record in many ways succeeded what I had initially expected. With ABIII
, Alter Bridge showcases their ability to keep pushing themselves even after getting success. The songwriting is great, the guitar work is stellar, and the vocals are easily the best amongst their peers. If you’re a fan of hard rock or metal, I would definitely recommend you buy this album when it comes out this November.
Slip into the Void