Sound — 8
It's not easy for some musicians to let go of the past with their former bands, but Alter Bridge's Mark Tremonti, Brian Marshall, and Scott Phillips may be an example of the contrary. Despite Creed being teased for it's benign rock and vocalist Scott Stapp's antics in the public eye, the formation of Alter Bridge has breathed new life into Tremonti, Marshall, and Phillip's careers. They've obviously got some loyal fans after Alter Bridge's debut album went triple platinum, and the new record Blackbird should maintain that popularity. Alter Bridge still remains a viable band for radio, which will still annoy some listeners out there, but Blackbird does feature some fantastic riff work that is missing from other groups that also get regular airplay.
There is still an equal helping of rock tracks and a bit more sedate material, and there's not necessarily any huge creative turns in Blackbird. But to the band's credit, the guitar work is shockingly more impressive than some of the harder groups in the metal world. Alter Bridge is a strong supporter of a driving riff to carry the song, not to mention some incredible solos. There's a heap of pinch harmonics on the record, and that Zakk Wylde-esque touch is all that some songs need to go from average to memorable. Vocalist Myles Kennedy has a lot to compete with in terms of the instruments backing him, but the frontman has the vocal power to stand his ground.
The title track, a moody and tempo-changing track, is definitely the standout on Blackbird. It starts out like any other rock ballad you might hear, but by the end you've been taken in every which direction. The acoustic introduction is quickly overtaken by some Black Sabbath-style guitars and there are some unusual chord changes through the course. The verses do lag a bit when compared with the explosion that happens during the chorus, but at the same time that contrast maintains a nice up-and-down motion to the song format.
While most every fast tempo track on the record features at least one cool hook, the best guitar work is on the opener Ties That Bind and One On One, which has a darker metal feel to it. In One On One, once again the verses go in a different direction and it tends to get a bit too laid-back. That's probably the biggest complaint with Alter Bridge. It would be nice to hear guitarist Tremonti just let loose the entire song without any easing up during the verse. It's during those slowed-down moments that it feels a bit too much like they're trying to write for the radio.
Lyrics — 8
Alter Bridge's lyrics are pretty standard for rock bands these days, with themes of overcoming pain, sorrow, and loneliness. A good example is Buried Alive in which Kennedy sings, I twist and turn; In the darkest space; Can't find my worth; As I numb the pain. While it does have a familiar ring to it, the lyrics do stop short of being generic throughout the rest of the song. Kennedy is singing about universal emotions and that can usually make for a great rock song or ballad.
Overall Impression — 8
There are highs and lows on Blackbird, and the tracks tend to a have a bit of both along the way. Some moments are reminiscent of a song like Creed's Arms Wide Open, which for this reviewer, is disappointing. It's the moments when the band goes all-out and delivers an epic track or simply lays out hook after hook that truly makes an impression. When you hear what the band is capable of in Blackbird or Come To Life (which features both a killer guitar intro and some nice, subtle vocal effects), you wish that Alter Bridge will add a few more songs that lean towards hard rock on the next record.