’s first two albums were rather substandard post-grunge
affairs, so it’s a happy surprise how consistent their new record is. AB III
won’t be remembered for its stunning musical ambitions or groundbreaking sounds, but it invests reliably familiar genre conventions with real feeling that helps elevate it above the pack. Though three of Alter Bridge’s four members hail from Creed
, the crucial advancement is the group’s lead singer, Myles Kennedy, who has stopped trying to sound like Scott Stapp and instead charts his own course.
An Unlikely Return
Alter Bridge initially formed after Creed broke up in 2004, with that band’s musicians deciding to start over with a new frontman. They chose Kennedy, who on Alter Bridge’s first two records (2004’s One Day Remains
and 2007’s Blackbird
) tried too hard to be the new Scott Stapp, which made some sense since the new group’s songs closely resembled the sound of Creed. When Creed reunited in 2009 for a new album
, the assumption was that Alter Bridge were done. But not only have Alter Bridge gotten back together, they’ve made their best record by intentionally not trying to be Creed. Maybe bassist Brian Marshall, drummer Scott Phillips and guitarist Mark Tremonti simply got that out of their system during their time back with Stapp, but AB III
blessedly lacks the bombast that’s a key component of most Creed records.
A Likeable Lead Singer
If you hate post-grunge’s rugged, macho sensitivity on principle, AB III
will give you plenty of moments to wince, but you might also be surprised how tuneful and restrained it is. Rather than the pompous bellowing of Stapp, Kennedy proves to be a more relatable and likeable lead singer, neither overselling the sentiment in a big ballad like “Wonderful Life” nor getting too amped up for a rocker like “I Know It Hurts.” It’s hard to say exactly what has changed in Kennedy -- perhaps it’s the time he spent on the road with Slash
to promote the guitarist’s 2010 solo disc
-- but the frontman seems more confident and relaxed than he did on previous Alter Bridge records.
Rock Songs Without Pretensions
Another explanation for AB III’s success is an easy one: This is the best crop of Alter Bridge songs the band members have written. Solidly crafted arena-rock that touches on themes of days gone by and love’s eternal promise, AB III very much embraces well-worn lyrical tropes, but songs like “Ghosts of Days Gone By” communicate their sentiments with a modicum of rock-star excess, making them palatable even to people who enjoy mocking Creed’s saviors-of-rock pretensions. That’s what makes AB III so good: These songs aren’t trying to change the world, but that doesn’t mean they’re generic or hopelessly stale, either.
Guitar Rock Done Right
Though it’s overlong, AB III
is constantly enlivened by Tremonti’s guitar work, which is electric without falling into clichés of being virtuostic -- this isn’t an album where you sit back and enjoy the shredding. Nevertheless, the album’s songs are highlighted by his riffs and solos, providing an urgent, emotional foundation for Kennedy’s words. The joke used to be that Alter Bridge were automatically better than Creed just because they didn’t have Stapp, but with AB III
this band shows they deserve to be taken seriously in their own right.
'AB III' – Best Tracks:
“Breathe Again” (Purchase/Download
“Wonderful Life” (Purchase/Download
“I Know It Hurts” (Purchase/Download
“Words Darker Than Their Wings” (Purchase/Download
“Ghosts of Days Gone By” (Purchase/Download
Release date – November 9, 2010
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publicist. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.