Thursday, June 11, 2015

Album Review: Tremonti - Cauterize

Mark Tremonti is one busy guy. Between Creed, Alter Bridge, and now his own solo band, he has written an incredible amount of songs in a short amount of time. That is great for fans of his, as too many artists are content to push the envelope and see how long they can get away without being productive, but it also carries with it the risk of both he and the audience getting burned out. Frankly, that's about where I am with him. While I think he's a great guitarist, and a more than capable songwriter, he's put out enough records now that they're beginning to blend together too much for my taste.

This solo band was supposed to be his vehicle for his more speed metal influences, but between the radio ready choruses that define the songs, and the increased metal focus of the last Alter Bridge album, it's harder to discern the need for this project, other than the fact that Myles Kennedy spends half his time working with Slash.

For this, his second outing with the solo band, not much has changed. Wolfgang Van Halen is now on board playing bass, but the music is a continuation of where we left off with the previous record. What that means, to me, is that there's a bit of a 'been there, done that' vibe that comes across, because there isn't anything new on display here. All of the riffs, whether the speedy picking of "Radical Change", or the slow chunk of "Flying Monkeys", are things you've heard before. That doesn't make them any less fun, but it does strip the album of the novelty factor.

The other factor to consider is Tremonti's voice. While he earned plenty of praise for his singing on the last album, as it has aged, I've found myself growing less enthusiastic about his vocals. His singing is capable, sure, but there's something about his strident delivery that sounds like he's trying too hard. He lacks the emotional nuance of a great singer, and while I realize that this kind of metal doesn't necessitate a world-class vocalist, his tone and approach are something I would consider an obvious step down from what Myles Kennedy would have brought to these songs.

As for the songs themselves, there is plenty of good to be said on that front. One thing that has always been true of Mark Tremonti is that he can write a song. These ten tracks feature a group of big choruses that I can easily see an audience singing back at the top of their lungs. He has a knack for melody that is impressive, and provides the songs with the most important element they can have. But there is one thing about them that bothers me. These songs are supposed to be heavy, fast, aggressive metal, and the choruses just don't quite fit in with the rest of the compositions. Riffs are played with all the metal fury Tremonti can muster, and then every chorus comes in and pulls back to modern rock standards. There's such a thing as ebb and flow in music, but these songs take that idea to the extreme, often feeling like Frankensteined monsters, with pieces thrown together simply because they were all that was left.

I always try to be honest in my assessments of records, and that leads me to a conclusion that I would rather not have had to say; "Cauterize" sounds like a collection of demos that would be sent to a producer before entering the studio. There just isn't enough cohesion in these songs that make me feel like I'm listening to an album that had so much work put into it. For all Tremonti's skill as a songwriter, and the ample displays of his melodic writing on the record, he hasn't quite figured out how to put together his metal side and his melodic side. Right now, they're fighting each other, and that makes this record hard to enjoy as anything more than a batch of ideas.

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