Monday, May 2, 2016

Album Review: Tremonti - Dust

Mark Tremonti has done something that many would have thought impossible; he has made us forget he was ever in Creed. While that band was the laughing stock of rock music until Nickelback took over the throne, he has used the time since that band's collapse to carve out a career with Alter Bridge that has redefined his legacy. That band has established themselves as far superior to anything its members had done before, and sells out arenas around Europe. On top of that, Tremonti has added this solo project, which is supposed to be the more 'metal' version of his core sound. I put that in quotes, because it's a bit dubious to say. These are the mostly the same hard rock songs he's always written, just with a heavier riff at the beginning.

This is the second of two albums that were written and recorded together last year. The first album, "Cauterize", was a disappointing effort that didn't match the project's debut, and felt completely unnecessary, given Alter Bridge continuing to move in heavier directions.

My criticism of this project is on full display in the first song, "My Last Mistake", which opens with a speed metal riff, and then quickly drops down into a verse and chorus that could have appeared on any Alter Bridge of Creed album. I don't say that to say it's bad, because I like Alter Bridge, but merely shifting a riff here and there doesn't seem like enough of a difference to create a third outlet for his music. It feels to me that making Alter Bridge records with a touch more frequency, or amassing material so only the very best can be used, would be a better use of his time and talent.

Part of the trouble is that Tremonti is trying to build these songs from the hallmarks of 80s thrash metal, but his guitar tone is the over-saturated darkness only a modern amp can create, which completely works against this approach. His tone has no bite, and no power, so his frantic riffing sounds weak and flabby, instead of ripping at your face with raw power. But, that tone does lay back int he choruses so his melodies can take center stage, which is the right call, but again makes me wonder why this project exists.

The best parts of this album are the melodies, which are much better than the last album. The choruses on this album hit a bit harder, and have enough hook to them to sink in. The problem is that they are radio rock choruses, and they sit in songs that want to be pure heavy metal. There's a disconnect between the main riffs of these songs, and the melodies Tremonti is writing. It's clear that he loves old-school heavy metal, but it's similarly clear that he's not good at writing it. None of these songs are able to commit to that approach, always falling back into familiar territory.

Look, Tremonti is good at writing radio rock. The man has an ear for melody, and has written plenty of fantastic songs. I like his work a fair bit. But, at the same time, he has one very particular style he writes in, and the shift to this more metallic sound simply doesn't work for him. There are lots of great ideas on this album, but they don't make for great complete songs. I know Tremonti needs something to keep him busy while Myles Kennedy is busy with Slash, but this record feels like Alter Bridge dumbed down, and it makes me wonder why I wouldn't just listen to them instead. This is a decent album, and it's much better than "Cauterize" was, but it doesn't justify the need.

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