Review by Paddy Gallagher for MPM
I do like a band who have the same members from the start, it fosters a feeling of brotherhood, togetherness that follows through into the song writing and the stage performance.
There are few such bands about these days with perhaps Alter Bridge being a prime example. Comprising 3 of the 4 members of Creed, Mark Tremonti, Brian Marshall and Scott Phillips with the addition of Myles Kennedy on vocals and guitar, Alter Bridge launched in January 2004 and, with this release, are 7 studio albums into a multi-million selling career: a decent output considering the members frequently meander into side projects such as Mark’s solo band, Tremonti, Myles Kennedy’s solo work and his duties as vocalist with Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators.
On this release, the band have created what I consider to be their best music in years.
One guarantee with Mark Tremonti on guitar; there will be riffs and they will be heavy, his oft stated influences shining through. Opening track “This Is War” has them in abundance.
Coupled with the formidable rhythm section of Brian Marshall on bass and Scott Phillips on drums the album is off to a flyer. Myles’ voice often divides opinion, it suits the job perfectly when playing with Slash, reproducing Axl’s wails when taking us down to Paradise City but I’ve always liked the texture his infectious vocal melodies bring to Alter Bridge, and indeed his solo work.
“Dead Among the Living” and “Silver Tongue” brings us 3 songs into the album without a change in pace; chunky riffs, immense work by Scott behind the kit, continuing the imaginative song construction; this is as aggressive as Alter Bridge have been in many a moon.
“Sin After Sin” is the first of 6+ minute songs on the album and slows the pace starting with Scott pounding out a rhythm on the Toms before the chugging down tuned riffs kick in. Yep, a head could be banged here, an air guitar played too!
“Stay” gives off a brighter, radio friendly vibe with Brian’s bass more audible in the mix. This is a fine driving anthem for a summers evening with the roof down, the shades on and cruising with, in this case, Mark’s voice in your ears.
The first 10 seconds of “Holiday” wasn’t as immediate as the previous 5 songs, but the band’s skill in constructing interesting passages of music made it clear they knew where they were going, and it soon becomes evident to the listener.
But nowhere is their talent more obvious than in “Fable of the Silent Son”. An Alter Bridge epic at 8 minutes 22 seconds, and now the longest song on any of their studio albums, I’ll be hugely disappointed if it isn’t a mainstay in all future live sets. What is immediately apparent is these guys could write and release a Prog Metal album. Excellent stuff!
“Season of Promise” brings us back into foot tapping, groovin’ air play territory before “Last Man Standing” utilises the skills of the backbone of the band. An intriguing drum pattern from Scott and classy bass by Brian are to the fore, providing fine atmosphere to the song.
Often overlooked in a band by media and fans and the recipient of much banter let us not forget the texture a skilled bass player adds to a band’s sound, a song’s structure. Myles’ vocal talents take the song further and the red-hot fretwork from Mark. Whoah!
And so, track 10, the title track brings an album without a weak track to a close. Before Myles implores the listener to “stand your ground don’t compromise” the listener can visualise the stage lighting on the set of their own private gig while listening to timely advice from Myles, “don’t let the bastards grind you down”. Very apt in today’s world.
Alter Bridge’s musicianship and song writing talent is in a different league, on a higher stratosphere to their peers. Even the 4ish minute songs, perhaps written with an eye to air play, contain structures leagues ahead of their contemporaries.
Intense, heavy, aggressive, memorable dual guitar riffage in abundance, topped by trademark infectious vocal melodies, this is Alter Bridge’s best output in recent times. If it isn’t in your 2022 Top 10, clean your ears and listen again.
Pawns & Kings tracklisting:
1) This Is War
2) Dead Among The Living
3) Silver Tongue
4) Sin After Sin
7) Fable Of The Silent Son
8) Season Of Promise
9) Last Man Standing
10) Pawns & Kings
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Apple Music: Alter Bridge
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