Review Summary: Mark Tremonti doing what he does best.
It can't be said enough that Mark Tremonti has come a long way from his time with Creed. If Alter Bridge laid the groundwork for Tremonti's evolution into a versatile guitarist and capable vocalist, the Tremonti project is Mark Tremonti spreading his wings and preparing to take flight. Armed with a talented backing band, Tremonti makes a strong argument that perhaps he is better without Alter Bridge and Creed.
doesn't just pick up from where Cauterize
left off. It improves from it in almost every single category. Tremonti continues to deliver blistering solos as he's done since his most recent work with Alter Bridge, but the real surprise is that Dust
features his best vocal performance to date. His confidence has continued to grow since All I Was
and he sounds comfortable front and center. He proves he can be powerful and gripping with "My Last Mistake" and "Catching Fire" yet equally compelling with "Dust", "Unable To See", and album highlight "Tore My Heart Out". His delivery is immediate and impactful, with just enough restraint to leave a lasting impression throughout Dust
's 43-minute runtime.
But where Dust
, and ultimately Tremonti as a band, outshine Alter Bridge and Creed is through an impeccable rhythm section. Tremonti has always been a metalhead at heart and Eric Friedman, Garrett Whitlock, and Wolfgang Van Halen are more than willing to throw down like a metal band. Friedman provides a necessary touch of melody with his backing vocals fortifying Tremonti's crisp tone in clean harmony and consistently delivers crushing, powerful riffs to go with Tremonti's soaring leads. Van Halen makes the most of his opportunities to shine on bass and does his job well, serving as a strong and underrated backbone in the band and as a necessary element in the softer moments. Whitlock, arguably the key cog tying it all together, is the drummer Mark Tremonti has desperately needed to take his music to another level. He is a force to be reckoned with through the heavier moments and, like Van Halen, makes the most of his opportunities to shine. From a technical standpoint, "The Cage", "Catching Fire", and "Once Dead" are the strongest songs that showcase every member's individual ability and showcase an undeniable chemistry that would make you think these guys have been playing together longer than four years.
Stylistically, there isn't much different to be found on production. Tremonti is comfortable building on the winning formula he found on Alter Bridge's Blackbird
with Michael "Elvis" Baskette at the board. Every song sounds and feels massive and the mixing is crystal clear without something being inaudible or overbearing. While there's nothing wrong with staying in familiar territory, Tremonti ultimately leaves you wondering if he is truly serious about forging a unique identity for this project. Sometimes Tremonti travels too close to Alter Bridge's neck of the woods: "Dust" and "Unable To See", for example, sounds like lost Blackbird
B-sides. Elsewhere, "Tore My Heart Out" wouldn't sound out of place on Fortress
. In its defense, however, "Tore My Heart Out" stands as the undeniable album highlight, marrying Mark Tremonti's strongest and most compelling vocals with a rare willingness to experiment with progression, even if it's in small windows.
Like its counterpart Cauterize
heavily leans on the typical verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge/solo-chorus structure, leading to songs running together and sounding similar to one another. "Never Wrong" and "Rising Storm" are the worst offenders, neither adding anything new nor sounding interesting enough to justify their existence. Unlike Cauterize
has more hits than misses. At its best, Dust
gallops at full speed while being aesthetically pleasing enough for anyone to enjoy. It's fast and heavy enough for fans of thrash while retaining an ear for melody and anthemic choruses for a hard rocker. In short, this is Mark Tremonti doing what Mark Tremonti has done best for nearly ten years. It's a stretch to say he's influential, but he's consistently made great music. With a stronger band behind him, Tremonti has the potential to make very special music. Cauterize
have put Tremonti on the right track to being special, but until Mark Tremonti shows a willingness to shed his past and get more creative, the Tremonti project will only be a fun diversion.