CD Review of Blackbird by Alter Bridge
Recommended if you like
Audioslave, Breaking Benjamin, Sevendust
Label
Republic
Alter Bridge: Blackbird

Reviewed by Bill Clark

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H
eaven help the rock fan who passes on Alter Bridge’s latest release, Blackbird, for fear that it will be a Creed knockoff. In case you don’t run in these circles, Alter Bridge is comprised of three original members of Creed (guitarist Mark Tremonti, bassist Brian Marshall, and drummer Scott Phillips). Mock me if you will, but I still consider Creed’s debut, 1997’s My Own Prison, to be one of the best hard rock albums of that era. As Creed grew and ultimately became MTV lover boys, the discerning fan could see Tremonti’s escalating frustration with what Creed was becoming. After Creed split, Tremonti reunited with Marshall (who had left Creed on questionable terms) and Phillips, then recruited Mayfield Four front man Myles Kennedy for vocals. Alter Bridge’s debut, 2004’s One Day Remains, was written almost entirely by Tremonti. Creed-like riffs could be heard, but Tremonti greatly expanded his guitar work (he’s always been a riff machine as is) to create a bluesier hard rock. Blackbird takes it a mile further, and it’s one of the best albums of the year.

Alter Bridge

The album kicks off in aggressive fashion with “Ties that Bind,” which is carried by a throttling guitar riff that will undoubtedly catch fans of their softer material completely off-guard. Track two, “Come to Life,” has elements of Korn (back when they were good) in its down-tuned glory. “Brand New Start” slows things down a bit and would make for a solid second single (“Rise Today” is the album’s first offering, and it’s the weakest track on the record). “Coming Home” sports a fantastic breakdown and a wonderfully melodic chorus. “Before Tomorrow Comes” and the aforementioned “Rise Today” are the catchiest tunes on the disc, but they lead up to the centerpiece: the seven-minute-plus title track. Much like Sevendust did with “Burn” on their Alpha album, Alter Bridge has created a stunning piece of music that alone makes the album worth the purchase. Tremonti’s deliberate, gorgeous guitar work is stunning and the solo is the best of his career. Solid tracks round out the record, highlighted by a killer riff on “One by One” and a beautiful closing track in “Wayward One.”

Tremonti shared the musical and lyrical duties with Kennedy (an accomplished guitarist himself) this time around, and it has paid off in droves. The songwriting is top-notch and the music is light years ahead of One Day Remains. Fans of the genre already knew that, like Creed or not, these guys have talent out the door. Here they have utilized it and, even better, have shown that they will only progress more from here.

Departing Wind-Up Records (word is the execs there essentially wanted a Creed clone in Alter Bridge) in favor of Republic was unquestionably a good choice. In this era of copy-and-paste hard rock songs in search of a big payday and a spot on a superhero movie soundtrack, Blackbird is an uncommon and welcome release. In its own right it’s a borderline masterpiece, and it’s not to be missed.

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