Sound — 8
Alter Bridge have continually been a shining light among the majority of modern mainstream rock. Their past albums have showcased intricate guitar parts, heavy riffs, high tech solos with just the right balance of speed and melodic passages, great vocals and harmonies, big anthem choruses, and a solid rhythm section. This album is no different as far as those general expectations. There's a lot of good things to say about the sound. The emotion of vocals really seem to capture of mood of each song and the lyrics. There is a lot of variety in the songwriting. They juggle anthem oriented hard rock, metal riffing, softer rock ballads, great light and dark contrasts, melodic and moody riffs, and a lot of lead guitar with different styles (courtesy of Myles and Mark trading off). They have a neat way of juggling a more upbeat sound in a song and taking on a darker and more sinister feel in the middle of it like in Ghost Of Days Gone By. Another note should be the drums. It seems like they stand out more and more each album. They have nice feel, the parts are becoming more and more intricate and some nice feels are unleashed. I feel like it was a smart move to incorporate the guitar talents and songwriting of Myles as I feel it has become an almost integral part of their sound that has helped to steer them away from sounding too much like Creed with a tenor vocalist. It's a nice contrast to hear the smooth feel and strong vibrato of Myles and the strong legato, speed, and complexity of Mark. Isolation is a good example of such interplay. The weak points of the album? There are moments where perhaps the sound becomes more mainstream than I or other people would prefer. It's not a deal breaker, because I can listen to some pretty mainstream sounding music, but it becomes noticeable on songs like Ghost Of Days Gone By, Wonderful Life, and Breath Again. I'm not doubting the emotional validity or amount of effort put into the songs, but they have that infamous radio rock vibe to them. Don't doubt that they are good songs, as I really like Ghost Of Days Gone By for it's change in mood, but you have been forewarned. I also feel like the chording took over a bit too much and it would have been nice to hear at least a couple more riffs instead of a roaring wall of crunchy guitar. My last complaint is that the bass playing is nothing special as usual. All in all, the complaints aren't enough to make it a bad album in sound. The sound is still going strong and they keep improving I think.
Lyrics — 9
The lyrics have never been poor on any of their albums and they usually refrain from cheesy lyrics. This album seems to be based thoughts concerning doubt in faith and religion and the struggles of an individual as he faces this. While, I am a person of faith, I can't condemn a person for doubting it as everyone goes through that. You either embrace faith or you eschew it. These are the two eventualities and Myles simply illustrates that. There also lyrics of reflection and remembrance such as in Ghost Of Days Gone By and Wonderful Life, the latter conveying the joy someone takes in remembering all the times they had with a dying loved one. The overall mood of the album is pretty dark and brooding, but there are also messages of perseverance and holding on even while the doubt and uncertainty exist. Myles continues to have an impress rock voice among whiny 20 somethings and semi-truck driver cookie monster vocals. He has a great range that goes from moody and mournful low moans to soaring high notes with vibrato. He also seems to be able to more effectively convey the emotions of each song, going from an eerie whisper to an almost wondering and questioning tone. If the lyrics convey feelings of wandering and being lost, he sounds lost. If the lyrics are desperate, he sounds desperate. I also have to give the man props for pulling off that stratospherically high note in Words Darker Than Wings and holding together with tone and vibrato. A pleasant surprise is Mark joining in on more prominent parts, singing co-lead on Words Darker Than Their Wings. He showcases a clear and strong baritone voice. His harmonies are also mixed more distinctly. Overall, it's a top notch vocal performance.
Overall Impression — 9
I really can't give this a straight comparison to anyone exactly. They have separated themselves from the Creed identity and they taken on a more unique sound. Granted, they DO have radio friendly songs, but they do it a unique manner. The guitar craft is polished and not at all simplistic, except for chords. A power chord or barre chord will always sound...like a power chord or barre chord. The tones aren't overly squished together and overly distorted and mushy, by they sound huge. So yes, it is radio friendly at times, but I can't really compare it to the overly distorted tones and poor dynamics of a lot of radio rock. I'd say the songs that probably stick out to me are the Slip to the Void, Isolation, Ghost Of Days Gone By, Wonderful Life, and Words Darker Than Their Wings, but all sixteen tracks are strong. It's commendable to make an album of sixteen tracks that are all strong. I really enjoy the album in general, but I can't deny I dislike some of the radio friendly quality of a few songs. It works for them, but it doesn't seem necessary sometimes. If I somehow lost this album, I would certainly get it again. New good music is in short supply and this falls under that category.