A mainline player brings the metal mainstream.
It is said that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, and for many the name Mark Tremonti will be forever tied to the commercial behemoth that was/is Creed and all of the post-grunge baggage that has been tied to it. Yet even back in the days when “Human Clay” and “Weathered” were the flavor of the moment, the six-string slinger and icon of the late 90s under consideration often noted his affinity with thrash metal bona fides of the 80s such as Metallica, Exodus and Forbidden. More recent years has seen his work with Alter Bridge reflect this subtle metallic edge in his playing to a greater extent, though not quite to the point of becoming a full blown heavy metal display. But with the 2011 inception of a project bearing his own name, this Detroit born trailblazer has found a medium within which to fully unleash his steel-forged potential while still playing within the boundaries of accessible modern rock, not to mention taking on the role of highly charismatic front man in the process.
With four studio albums that all but perfectly split the difference between kinetic 80s speed/thrash and groove-based modern rock under his belt, each upping the ante in the former department no less, one can’t help but be perplexed as to just how Tremonti would top itself on its fifth outing. But for whatever mystical forces were at work in the songwriting process, 2021’s “Marching In Time” represents the most ferociously heavy, swift-paced and melodically splendid collection of anthems to be rolled out under this outfit’s moniker. As with its predecessor “A Dying Machine,” this 12 pack of tempered steel earns its place among the fearsome alumni of Napalm Records, but comes with a meaty guitar tone and pummeling production job that actually fits in quite comfortably among the ranks of label mates Destruction, Grave Digger and Majesty. Opinions may continue to vary among purists as to whether this is a full on metal album, but few could argue that these riff happy crushers fail to come extremely close.
From the first low end slams of the opening thrasher “A World Away”, it’s pretty clear that Mark and company aren’t pulling their punches, and comparisons to the recent efforts of thrash revival outfits like Warbringer and Enforced become apparent during the faster moments. The riff set has a decidedly down-tuned and dank demeanor to it that has a slight nu-metal tinge to it, but is a tad nimbler than a typical Slipknot approach and forms a unique synchronicity when Tremonti’s ultra clean melodic vocals chime in. Other metal-infused thrill rides such as “In One Piece” and “Would You Kill” are slightly less frenzied, but prove about as intricate and offer a brilliant blend of busy guitar work, thunderous drumming and a powerful singing display that is a bit less Chris Cornell-like than what Myles Kennedy brings to Alter Bridge, but almost as powerful. One would be remiss not to note the riveting guitar solo displays that adorn both songs, channeling the flash and flair of Kirk Hammett and Gary Holt within a modern rock context to masterful effect.
Though most of this album’s charm lay in its uncompromising aggression blended with hook-drenched verse and chorus segments, there are some softer and subtler moments at work here to balance out the blaring intensity of crunchy numbers like “Now And Forever” and “Let That Be Us”. Mark’s effectiveness in building a haunting atmosphere off of a set of reserved clean and acoustic guitar lines on the quieter moments of Alter Bridge’s extensive discography is on full display on the rough balladry of “The Last One Of Us” and “Under The Sun”, the latter being one of the more epic exercises in dynamic contrast to come out of his creative well yet. “Bleak” accomplishes a similar effect as well, albeit painted over with a more dank and dissonant mixture of elements. But the most brilliant display of auditory nuance and development is the progressive rock-tinged and long-winded album closer and title offering “Marching In Time”, brilliantly melding sounds of melancholy and rage in a manner fairly reminiscent of mid-2000s Dream Theater.
A degree of skepticism may yet linger among the metal elitist class that this writer is admittedly a part of, but in addition to being an album that brings everything to the table that Alter Bridge’s fans crave, this entry packs enough of a metallic punch to further decrease the aforementioned doubts that Tremonti’s chops don’t extend upon the post-grunge paradigm. With the recent battle between chart topping rap artist Drake and old guard metal stalwarts Iron Maiden for command of the Billboard Top 10 turning a lot of heads, this is the sort of album that is primed to keep the lighter side of the musical mainstream from getting too comfortable, not to mention provide a gateway to Mark’s earlier noted childhood thrash metal influences, most of whom are still putting out material to this very day. Some may argue that straddling the divide between modern rock and the more jagged fringes of old school metal can’t yield greatness; “Marching In Time” begs to differ
Released By: Napalm Records
Released On: September 24th, 2021
- Eric Friedman / Rhythm and lead guitar, backing vocals, keyboards
- Mark Tremonti / Lead and rhythm guitar, lead vocals
- Ryan Bennett / Drums, percussion
- Tanner Keegan / Bass guitar, backing vocals
“Marching In Time” track listing:
1. A World Away
2. Now And Forever
3. If Not For You
4. Thrown Further
5. Let That Be Us
6. The Last One Of Us
7. In One Piece
8. Under The Sun
9. Not Afraid To Lose
11. Would You Kill
12. Marching In Time
While taking his respites from bringing the house down with the grand melodic fanfare of Alter Bridge, virtuoso guitarist and noted Creed axe-man Mark Tremonti takes his music to a more ferocious place, and his latest solo venture proves to be the most metallic creation to emerge from his arsenal yet