Thursday, 30 July 2015

Tremonti's 'Cauterize' - Album Review

Mark Tremonti is known in the hard rock and metal worlds as the lead guitarist and songwriter for both Creed and Alter Bridge - two bands which have had huge success and have legions of fans all over the world. It was with Creed that Tremonti rose to fame and their mix of hard rock and grunge almost defined heavy, commercial music in the 1990s. Their second album, 1999's Human Clay, has solid over 20 million copies world wide; which is a testament to just how big Creed were (and, to a lesser extent, still are). When Creed came to an end in 2004, Tremonti and the rest of the band (minus singer Scott Stapp) formed Alter Bridge with Myles Kennedy, who is now one of the most famous frontmen of the current generation. Alter Bridge have released four critically acclaimed albums since then, and have toured the world over. In Europe at least, Alter Bridge are filling arenas, and are one of the biggest hard rock acts of the day. Not content with working with two huge bands (there was a Creed reunion album and tour in 2009) Tremonti also occasionally works on solo material while Alter Bridge are having some downtime (and while Kennedy tours with Slash). He released his first solo album All I Was in 2012 and, unsurprisingly, it was very well received. It was a heavier album than anything he had been a part of before, and showed that Tremonti had some serious metal chops to go with his more widely known hard rock ones. Tremonti has always been a big fan of metal music, particularly thrash, and some of this was present on All I Was. Joined by guitarist Eric Friedman (who also played the album's bass guitar) and drummer Garrett Whitlock, the three made a great album that surprised a lot of metalheads who were initially dismissive of Tremonti due to his post-grunge history. Bassist Wolfgang Van Halen joined the band for the live shows, and has remained on board for the second album under the 'Tremonti' banner: Cauterize. Sound wise, I would say this album is a little more diverse than All I Was, but it still focuses primarily on the metal side of Tremonti's playing. There are plenty of moody and atmospheric moments to be found however, which sets this album apart from the previous one. Another album, tentatively titled Dust, was also recorded alongside Cauterize, so Tremonti fans have that one to look forward to sometime in the future!

The album gets off to a strong start with Radical Change which, ironically, picks up nicely where All I Was left off. The song's fast, thrashy main riff drives the song along nicely, and is sure to impress metal fans. Whitlock's drumming is also noteworthy here, and he keeps up well with Tremonti's guitar to create an infectious musical passage. Tremonti's vocals are also very strong, and he seems to be continually improving as a vocalist. Having only become a lead vocalist recently, it is amazing how far he has come in a short space of time. The chorus of this song is a testament to that, and the emotion his voice holds works well. Such is the power of his voice, that the song's guitar solo actually seems to be overshadowed somewhat by the vocals - something which you would not expect when it comes to Tremonti! Flying Monkeys is next and lays down a savage, slow groove from the outset. While not quite doom standard, the slowness of the main riff really helps to make the song powerful. When I first heard this song I was not that impressed, but repeated listens had made me realise how great it is. The groove just worms its way into your brain, and the understated, slow chorus is very memorable and sees Tremonti backed up by the band who provide some excellent backing vocals. The album's title track follows and this is another excellent song. The fast riffing is back, and the verses are so full of strong vocal melodies that I defy anybody to not enjoy it. This was definitely one of the most immediate songs on the album, and the chorus packs a real punch with its strong alternative rock feel. It actually has a sound similar to some of Alter Bridge's debut album, so fans who like that should love this too. I have a feeling this song will become a highlight of the band's live set. Arm Yourself is similar, but lacks the standout melodies of Cauterize. This is song is more about the heavy riffs and powerful drumming to get the metal fans on side. Whitlock really outdoes himself on this album, and this song is a great example of his style and skills. There is a great, melancholic mid-section that helps to break up the metal riffing, and leaves Arm Yourself as another enjoyable tune. In contrast, Dark Trip is a slower tune. Clean guitar melodies and rumbling bass lines fuse well to create an oppressive sound that Tremonti does well to sing over. This is another song that grows on you over repeated listens, and features some really excellent bluesy lead playing in places from the man himself. This song shows a different side of Tremonti's playing and songwriting abilities, and works well as a break from the heavier numbers that came before it.

Another Heart was the song released online prior to the album's release to give fans a taste of what was to come, and it it easy to see why. It is a very easy listen, and contains probably what is the biggest chorus on the album. The vocal melodies are extremely strong throughout the whole of the song, which is important as some of the riffs here are less interesting than on some of the more technical tracks on the album. That being said, I really like the guitar solo on this song, and the catchy nature of the vocals make this song an easy one to like. Fall Again is another slower number, that has a real ballad feel, despite the heavier choruses. The verses are more gentle though, with some acoustic guitar in the mix to help this, and some very heartfelt vocals from Tremonti that demonstrate he has a fairly large vocal range. It is another strong song that shows his maturity as a songwriter and helps add to the diversity of the album. Tie the Noose gets back to the heaviness, but dials back on the speed somewhat. This song is more of a mid-paced rocker, which has a powerful chugging riff and verses that are made great with a prominent, snaking bass line. This song is the perfect speed for headbanging, and that will probably make it a great live song. Sympathy has a big radio rock feel, which seems a little out of place when placed next to the rest of the material on this album. For that reason, this is probably the album's weakest song, and seems somewhat trying to appease the Creed fans who might be checking this album out. It is not an awful song by any means, but it does contain too many hallmarks of the generic rock music that was filling the radio waves at the beginning of this millennium. The album comes to a close with Providence, which definitely makes sure the album ends well after the slight miss-step of Sympathy. Again, there is a bit of an Alter Bridge vibe here, and the song is a bit longer than the rest of the album's songs. There are plenty of great mid-paced riffs here, and the song even has a bit of a progressive vibe in places as the song continues to change and evolve throughout its duration. There a slight epic feel about it too, which makes it a great choice as an album-closing number. Overall, Cauterize is a strong follow-up to All I Was and proves that Tremonti's solo band has a long-term future alongside his day job in Alter Bridge. I am glad that he now has a project where he can show off his metal chops, as this is a side of his playing that has been largely hidden from the public until fairly recently.

The album was released on 8th June 2015 via FRET12. Below is the band's promotional lyric video for Another Heart.

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