Album Review: Alter Bridge – AB III

So I know that it’s a good idea as a reviewer to keep yourself out of the review. Keep away from the first person. Be detached. Present the facts while still giving your opinion, but don’t use “I”. I learned all of this in my graduate level non-fiction classes. Usually, I fail at this task because I have read a lot of Hunter S. Thompson and enjoy using “I” and phrases like “ye gods man!” and “filthy swine.” Usually, I do this without even thinking. But I am able to keep detached. I am a damn professional.

Sometimes, however, an album comes along that brings out enough emotion that I say “Piss on it” and single myself out as a person. I am a person. A human. With human emotions and feelings. You may (but probably don’t) remember this person from such reviews as Kottonmouth Kings or Wolf Parade. Two ends of the emotional spectrum for me, but emotions nonetheless.

I recently took the task of writing a review for Creed-band-but-now-with-new-lead-singer schlock fest Alter Bridge and their new album, AB III. I went into the process  listening with a completely open mind (seriously). I mean, when I was in middle school/high school, I enjoyed My Own Prison. I’ll freely admit that. I felt the music at the time. We all did. My Own Prison went six times platinum. Six!  We had all created our own prisons in our own teenage, angst-filled way. Most of us had no idea what that meant, and especially didn’t know that Scott Stapp and company were singing about God (which was a topic close to home for me, but far from mind). But still, it was music that we enjoyed. 3 Doors Down, Days of the New, double bass drums, guitar solos, high pitched singer. These were all things on the list of necessities.

So when I saw Alter Bridge, I thought “ok…let’s see if there’s still some of that joy still stuck in me.” My discovery: my brain said “Fuck off! Your kind isn’t wanted here anymore!” Already, you know my slant. Hell, you knew it when you saw the star rating on this album, but still, you read on. If you’re a fan of this kind of music , I won’t knock you for being that way. I like a lot of music that most find ridiculous. I own four Rockapella albums. However, it is my job to inform you, the reader, of why I didn’t like this album.

The album starts promisingly enough. The first track, “Slip Into the Void”, has an opening akin to Tool, which may make you excited and hopeful. There’s a jumping and rolling synth, with lead singer Miles Kennedy singing in a low whisper, everything leading into a plinking, distorted guitar underneath. Then, at 1:30, things turn all shit-metal on you. Those hopes and dreams of a dark Tool rockout are smashed under what is probably a drop-C tuned or 7-string Ibanez guitar, and Kennedy and Co. switching into their best Audioslave impression. Five minutes later, when the song ends, I want to quit. I want to just stop the album and pick something else, but I don’t. I am strong. We are strong. We press on!

The next song is “Isolation”, and it opens with something that sounds like a St. Anger era Metallica riff. Damn it! Foiled again! 45 seconds in and there’s already a noodling, high-pitched guitar solo, and you begin to remember days in a friend’s basement playing GoldenEye 64, drinking Mountain Lightning, and loving the piss out of ICQ and Cool Ranch Doritos. Are we in 2000 again? Is that Chris Cornell singing? Is this Chevelle? No. We are still in 2010, and that is Miles Kennedy and Alter Bridge. I know. I was disappointed too.

That disappointment continues for the rest of the album, basically, so I won’t continue on this play-by-play. There is a set formula that Alter Bridge follows on the album, and it is a formula that only mixes together into a highly noxious chemical that makes you sick to your stomach. It is guitarist Mark Tremonti, who once created some of the most recognizable riffs in rock music (remember that “Higher” riff? I mean god DAMN!), fitting as many melodic scales into each song as he can. I won’t deny that the guy can play the hell out of a guitar, but on this album his riffs just become more noise added to the pile. It makes your ears tired from the strain of Kennedy’s high pitched tenor, the excessive cymbals, and the screeching guitars.

I will admit there are some high points. “Ghost of Days Gone By” is a solid GnR-esque rocker that opens with what seems like the same chords as “Falling Even More in Love With You” by Lifehouse. As a matter of fact, the whole damn song sounds like that song. I really liked that song when it came out the first time, and I still enjoy it now in its second incarnation, its Alter Bridge form. Overall, the musicianship is solid. Again, I won’t deny the fact that these folks can play their instruments, and Miles Kennedy does have a great rock voice. I mean he was in line to perform with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones as the new Led Zeppelin. There has to be some talent there.

Outside of that, AB III left me feeling annoyed more than anything. It became painful to get through. This isn’t always a sign of a terrible album. Sometimes it’s just overwrought production. I still have trouble getting through the first Arctic Monkeys album because everything is so up front in the mix, but I love that album. In the case of AB III, it was painful for that reason, but also because, as I stated before, it is schlocky, living in the past, and filled with attempts at being like more successful, yet still terrible, other bands.

Maybe I have let my emotions get the better of me, here. Perhaps I’m too hard on these nice, God-fearing gentlemen. But I gotta go with what I know, and what I know is that my brain has a visceral reaction to this music, causing my stomach to cramp and my eyes to burn. If you’re the kind of person that can still get down to this stuff, then devour Alter Bridge with all your might. I want people to love what they love. I just plainly don’t love this album. With everything in me, I don’t love it.


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