Album Review: AB III by Alter Bridge

Thanks to EMI for sending us a copy to review AB III.

Alter Bridge’s new album, AB III , affirms the band has broken away from the Creed façade and fully reinvented itself.  Granted, the original members of Creed re-joined with Stapp to produce a new album that was average at best.  But make no mistake Alter Bridge is by far a superior ensemble. With soaring vocals and musical shades of post-grunge blended with hard rock, the band continues to grow and push itself producing solid songs.

Often times, I find it difficult to listen to Alter Bridge without comparing the band to Creed.  The key difference is always the powerful vocals from Myles Kennedy, who has a greater vocal range and more expressive voice than Scott Stapp. The harmonic riffs and grooves are also superior coalescing into a richer sound.

If One Day Remains set the stage for life after Creed, and Blackbird cemented the evolution, then AB III illustrates that band is just hitting its stride with an album filled with dynamic song and dark, emotional context.  And with fourteen songs and two extra songs added, there is a ton of music to absorb.

I found it a bit challenging to select specific songs to highlight for this review because every song has a life of its own and frankly each just rocks.  I didn’t want to do a song by song review, so here goes in my attempt in selecting the “highlights” of the album.

The multi-shaded, “Slip to the Void”, sets the tone for the album with an acoustic beginning coupled with Myles’s haunting vocals for the first couple of minutes before transitioning into a hard rock vibe for the remainder the song.  The multi-layered song immediately makes a statement that AB III is dark and intense.

For its happier sounding intro and vibe throughout much of the song, “Ghost of Days Gone By” is actually quite dark.  The song is about impending death and the fact that every day that passes brings us closer to the inevitable.  As each day passes, it dies and the memories that remain are like ghosts we wish to keep alive.  But no matter how much we dwell on the past, it will always remain a ghost. Contextually, it reminded me of Dream Theater’s “Pull Me Under”

In “Wonderful Life,” I can imagine a music video taking place at hospital with a loved one lying in bed just hours before it’s that time to move into the afterlife.  Kennedy’s ability to mix serene, emotional singing with powerful, gutsy ones brings the song to life. The song is beautiful mixing acoustic and heavy moments, blending sorrow and rage.

The “Fallout” is reminder that no matter what you go through in life, there are others just like going through similar circumstances.  Regardless of how lost we feel from the “moment” that forces to question everything aka the fallout, none of us are ever alone.  The interlude in the middle of the song has an ominous feel to it with lyrics about how each of us seek truth about life, destiny and what happens after we die.

The main album ends with “Words Darker Than Their Wings,” an introspective songs that questions everything we have live our lives believing only to recognize in the end you are wrong.  The truth we believe sometimes turns out to be a fallacy, a figment of our imagination. But no matter how wrong we might be, we whole hopefully fall into the light.

The album version I was sent includes two bonus tracks, “Zero” and “Home”, rounding out the sixteen tracks.

Once you get past the arena rock feel and allow the music to grab hold of you, it becomes easier to recognize the thought-provoking lyrics. Alter Bridge does a great job in wrapping dark subject matter with surprisingly uplifting harmonies and melodies.  AB III is a grand achievement and possibly the best hard rock album of the year.

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