Review Summary: Although it can't match up to Blackbird, AB III is still a very strong release that was well worth the wait.
When looking back at Alter Bridge’s history, I consider myself lucky to have started off with Blackbird
with no knowledge of their past, because they have come quite a long way. No matter how you feel about Creed, no one would have predicted an album like Blackbird
to come from these musicians. The combination of Myles Kennedy’s powerful vocals and Mark Tremonti’s blazing guitarwork has made these guys a force to be reckoned with. Blackbird
was a triumph when many had written them off, and erased anything that tied them to Creed. This also put quite a lot of pressure on AB III
. To follow up a record such as Blackbird
wouldn’t be easy. There was always the fear that they would just end up making a rehash of the last album.
Thankfully, as soon as the album starts it’s clear that this fear was misplaced. The band promised a darker record, and they delivered. AB III
is dark, brooding, and consistently uses Drop A guitars and more pessimistic lyrics than anything the band has written before. Slip To The Void
opens the album with a low-key intro featuring a chilling vocal performance from Myles. After successfully building the tension for over a minute, Tremonti lays down a pounding riff, and the song catapults into a venomous mid-tempo rocker. It’s also a good indicator of the overall darker tone of the album. All Hope Is Gone
is another highlight, with a dark and melancholic sound, and a fantastic buildup to the thundering riff in its midsection. The darker tone to the album is something that the band pulls off with ease, and it allows them play to their strengths. Tracks like Show Me A Sign
don’t succeed due to flashy guitarwork but because of the atmosphere that’s created from their brooding riffs.
However, it’s more than just Mark’s guitar and Myles’ vocals that make the album succeed. Tremonti’s background vocals have always been one of the more underrated assets of the band, and they’re more prominent here. The choruses have an even fuller sound this time due to his vocals being pushed higher in the mix. The band takes it even further with Words Darker Than Their Wings
, which provides one of the album’s finest moments: a duet between him and Myles. The verses consist of the two men alternating vocals, and the combination of their voices sounds truly magnificent. It might not reach the level of Blackbird
’s title track, but it’s a powerful closer, and a promising sign for the future if Mark continues to get his voice heard more on their records. Conversely, Myles’ presence on guitar is another asset that gives the album more depth, and he even gets to do some more soloing on Isolation
and Show Me A Sign
. His blues-inspired playing once again provides a compliment to Mark’s metal influence.
And for those that like the band for that metal influence, there’s plenty of material here to enjoy, such as the monstrous lead riff that ravages through lead single Isolation
. The similarly fast-paced Still Remains
will no doubt be another favorite, and features a bridge that lets Tremonti unleash some thrash metal-influenced riffage. Still, the band doesn’t just succeed on pure heaviness, it’s Myles’ vocals that help give these tracks their energy, and that’s the one thing I’ve always appreciated about the band: their dedication to melody even during their heaviest moments. Coeur D’Alene
is where the band does it best, and it’s the strongest track on the album. It’s one of the heavy rockers but it’s also very melancholic, and Tremonti does an excellent job of letting his riffs weave in and out of the melody. It doesn’t even have as big of a chorus as a lot of other tracks here, but that’s actually a strength in this case since it allows the track to flow very smoothly.
It’s disappointing, then, that the ballads don’t quite have the same level of inspiration. Wonderful Life
is a pleasant enough continuation of the soft balladry of Watch Over You
, but the similarity to that fan favorite prevents it from truly standing out, although it’s forgivable since it’s still a very enjoyable track. Breathe Again
, on the other hand, is too much self-plagiarism to ignore. It’s practically a note for note copy of Before Tomorrow Comes
, only with a weaker chorus. This earns it a place as one of the band’s worst songs, one that hopefully won’t
be a single. The best single-worthy material on the album is Make It Right
, which takes what they did with Rise Today
and adds more musical muscle and an even catchier chorus.
All in all, while it doesn’t match up to Blackbird
, AB III
is an excellent follow-up, and its main flaws come from comparing it to the band’s previous work, since it doesn’t have a track as brilliant as Blackbird
or Ties That Bind
. Taken out of that context there’s very little to criticize, other than the fact that the formula does get a little predictable throughout the album’s 66-minute running time, something that will be more intimidating for more casual listeners. Mark can still write excellent solos that have a great mix of shred and melody and always fit the song they’re in, and Myles can still dazzle with his enviable 4-octave range. Given the consistently excellent songwriting and musicianship displayed here, AB III
can safely be called another triumph for mainstream rock.
Slip To The Void
All Hope Is Gone
Words Darker Than Their Wings