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Alter Bridge

+ {Tremonti} + {Myles Kennedy}

Who would’ve thought that former post-grunge CREEDsters, Mark Tremonti (lead guitar), Scott Phillips (drums) and the wayward Brian Marshall (bass), could find another outfit to exact their hard-rock/metal sound. Roping in ex-Mayfield Four chanter/guitarist Myles Kennedy into the fore (the Spokane, Washington group had opened for CREED several years back), January 2004 saw the emergence of a fresh alt-rock proposition: ALTER BRIDGE.
Based in Orlando, Florida, and while it looked like CREED could carry on no more as singer SCOTT STAPP had taken his own solo route (the aforementioned Marshall was adamant he’d never perform on stage with the man again after a bust-up in 2000), ALTER BRIDGE came up with a Top 5 debut set, ONE DAY REMAINS (2004) {*5}. Almost a ringer for CHRIS CORNELL in his heyday with SOUNDGARDEN, Kennedy was the right man for the job, a shreddingly soulful spirit who could hold every note in the book. Despite garnering the plaudits for his gymnastic larynx, there was little by way of hits from Tremonti’s (and Kennedy’s) songbook, although diehard grunge-to-nu-metal fans could probably cherry-pick from `Watch Your Words’, `Broken Wings’ and `Shed My Skin’.
Finally severing their long-running liaison with Wind-Up Records, ALTER BRIDGE crossed over to Universal Republic for their next offering, BLACKBIRD (2007) {*8}, an album that focused on the lyrical fortitude of frontman Kennedy. If one could hear any traces of CREED here, then one was certainly listening to the wrong album. Although not as successful in terms of chart positions (US Top 20 and UK Top 40), power was restored on the chugging grind of aggressive heavy-metal tracks, `Ties That Bind’, `Rise Today’, `Before Tomorrow Comes’, `Watch Over You’ and the 8-minute title track. And then the unthinkable – a re-formation of CREED, with even Marshall and Stapp performing live again on stage, and together – with Tremonti and Phillips – for an ill-timed and ill-advised comeback set, “Full Circle” (2009).
Meanwhile, AB III (2010) {*8}, continued ALTER BRIDGE’s surge toward supergroup superstardom, and it also marked their inaugural appearance for Roadrunner Records – the bastion of all things metal and hard-rock. Faring better in the UK as it smashed into the Top 10 (only Top 20 in their homeland), their insistence to un-CREED their tones via a loosely-based concept idea, paid off in spades. In a partly post-prog style, switching from soaring soft-metal to snarling and moody rawk, the third album extinguished the past through dirges such as `Slip To The Void’, `Isolation’, `Ghost Of Days Gone By’ and `Fallout’.
Although it looked on the cards that CREED might be gearing up for another bite at the cherry, and while speed-metallist TREMONTI was diverging into his own Top 30 solo project set, ALL I WAS (2012) {*7} – heads down for `Leave It Alone’, `Wish You Well’ and `Brains’ – ALTER BRIDGE were embarking on album number four.
Refreshed by working with another guitar legend, SLASH, Myles Kennedy and his AB cohorts pile-drive and pulverise their opposition into submission on the excellent, FORTRESS (2013) {*9}. Right up there with the best metal albums of the year (maybe decade), Classic Rock radio had something new to shout about courtesy of the greasy ’n’ grimy `Cry Of Achilles’, `Addicted To Pain’, `Bleed It Dry’, `Lover’, `The Uninvited’, etc. – not since Sabbath, Maiden and Priest has a group had the complete endorsement of every metal-head on the planet.
Retaining drummer Garrett Whitlock and fellow SUBMERSED rhythm guitarist Eric Friedman (shifting from bass on this occasion), plus fresh bassist Wolfgang Van Halen (son of Eddie), TREMONTI unleashed their sophomore offering, CAUTERIZE (2015) {*8}. Brandishing hot-iron metal leads and relentless machine-gun drumming, Mark and his team stoke the Devil’s furnace for tracks such as `Fall Again’, `Another Heart’, `Radical Change’, `Flying Monkeys’ and the softer end-piece `Providence’.
The third Michael “Elvis” Baskette produced TREMONTI set, DUST (2016) {*7}, had that introspective feel, having been recorded at the same time as its companion piece “Cauterize”. Once again more popular in Britain (Top 20) than in America (Top 40), the moribund Mark and Co deliver their classic guitar rock designs over ten tracks, the best coming in the anthemic opening title track/single, plus `Betray Me’ and `My Last Mistake’.
Rumours in metal circles that another ALTER BRIDGE set would be arriving ASAP were proved correct with the action-packed THE LAST HERO (2016) {*7}. Soaring high and harmonic from the skies of Planet Rock came Myles Kennedy: a godly post-grunge giant who could give a halcyon-day CHRIS CORNELL a run for his money, whilst the lightning bolts of axeman-cometh Mark Tremonti joined him in PAGE & PLANT tradition. Deserving of its Top 10 peak on both sides of the Big Pond, there were no punches pulled for the apolitical warnings of `Show Me A Leader’, `The Writing On The Wall’, `The Other Side’, `My Champion’ et al.
Double-CDs and live boxed sets all the rage nowadays, ALTER BRIDGE subsequently landed two prestigious sucker punches via two London-centric chart entries, LIVE AT THE O2 ARENA (2017) {*7} – “+ Rarities” – and LIVE AT THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL: FEATURING THE PARALLAX ORCHESTRA (2018) {*6}.
Prior to cutting a set with SLASH (`Living The Dream’), the multi-tasking MYLES KENNEDY proved his worth outside the perimeters of hard rock by releasing a folksy blues concept album. Inspired by the death of his father, YEAR OF THE TIGER (2018) {*7}, was a therapeutic and personal affair that connected more with his British audience. Meanwhile, Mark’s TREMONTI trio was still holding their own against the metallic muscle of their peers. Bolstered by download singles, `Take You With Me’, `Bringer Of War’, `As The Silence Becomes Me’ and the title track, 2018’s A DYING MACHINE {*8} was viewed by many as their best record yet.
Off road and into the light once again, ALTER BRIDGE and engineer/producer Michael Baskette grounded out yet another hard-rock exercise from the clouds a la WALK THE SKY (2019) {*7}. A tour de force of chaotic but soaring Tremonti riffs and regimented rhythms, the 14-song, hour-long Top 20 (Top 5 UK) set polarised opinion; as to why `Godspeed’ and `Clear Horizon’ weren’t chosen to single-stream alongside the likes of the sublime `Take The Crown’, `Wouldn’t You Rather’, `In The Deep’, `Pay No Mind’ and anchor, `Dying Light’, was indeed baffling.
© MC Strong/MCS Oct2013-Oct2019

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