Release Date: Tuesday 9th June 2015
Luke 'Loki' Milne
With his upcoming Download Festival appearance just moments away, ex-Creed and current Alter Bridge guitarist Mark Tremonti branches out yet again with the release of 'Cauterize', this year's follow-up to his 2012 solo debut album 'All I Was'.
The album's release date has been pushed and pulled a little, finally settling on a date that gives just enough time to learn the lyrics of each song in preparation; fans can expect to get their hands on the album on 9th June, a little ahead of his live festival appearance.
As an avid Alter Bridge and once-upon-a-time Creed fan, I simply had to sink my teeth into 'Cauterize', and it's 100% true to say that I practically lunged at the chance to review Tremonti's latest release - all but snatching it from the hands of one of my (slightly disgruntled) MetalTalk colleagues.
Article continues below...
I've certainly been known to have a fluid taste in music that is constantly evolving and being added to (leaving some music gathering dust in the archives), but there's something about AB's music that keeps me coming back, satisfying my itch for musical entertainment virtually every time I pick up one of their albums.
Often I will revisit the likes of 'ABIII' and 'Blackbird' for a little personal indulgence, and though I'm not entirely sure what it is that sets Alter Bridge aside from other music acts, I don't think I've ever disliked a release of theirs and - unlike other bands that populate my personal music taste - have never found their music to wear thin over time.
Tremonti's solo work is no exception, and though I wholly intend to steer clear of any sort of bias during this review you'll have to forgive me if I sink into a little fan-boy moment for a second. You see, I wasn't even reviewing music back during the time of the pre-release hype of 'All I Was', yet still I tracked all updates, news and teasers until the album's official release date. Given my love of his previous work in the Hard Rock genre, there was no way I was going to let a Tremonti solo album slip under my radar! I grabbed a copy as soon as the album hit stores, sitting down that evening to experience the duration of the album track to track, back to back.
Of course, it's not my intention to revisit his solo debut in full, but it's worth mentioning that 'All I Was' completely lived up to expectations. To me, it represented a strong and well-grounded release that stood tall as a standalone, thoroughly enjoyable entity, 'side-stepping' Alter Bridge and adding the guitarist's own personal twist to the band's broad and colourful music. The result was an album that unashamedly reached out to fans fans old and new, exploring new musical territories whilst keeping in check with Tremonti's roots so as not to alienate fans of his previous exploits – an almost textbook example of a 'meanwhile' style solo album.
I've blabbed on quite enough already, so now I'll cut straight to the point... 'Cauterize' is fucking fantastic - so much so that I'm not even going to apologise for swearing. Here, Tremonti has chalked up yet another firm and admirable release that opens up the next chapter of his solo work. This year's offering introduces yet more of the musician's own personal interests, following faithfully in the footsteps of 'All I Was', whilst simultaneously drawing inspiration from - and developing on - the experience and style gained from his work within Alter Bridge and Creed.
The album instantly throws up a fire-breathing start by way of the speed-metal-esque introductory track 'Radical Change'. It's a fast, furious and frantic start to the album that shakes things up from the get-go with catchy chord progressions, thunderous percussion and easy, memorable vocal melodies. 'Flying Monkeys' presents a drudging, dark and chuggy offering beset with yet more interesting vocal harmonies during the chorus, coupled with captivating, broad and dramatic chord progressions throughout. It's a case of 'so far so very bloody good' as we approach the album's title track.
Bloody hell, if this doesn't get the crowd going at Donnington, I don't know what the heck will. 'Cauterize' arrives pretty early on in the grand scheme of the album's playthrough, announcing it's arrival with an aggressively-charged crescendo of palm muted power chords and double bass blasts. Firing into the first verse and chorus with full force, it takes a matter of seconds for me to reach the conclusion that this is probably going to be Tremonti's most crowd-pleasing and receptive song from his new album to perform at this year's Download Festival – making it a fantastic choice of title track.
Both verse and chorus are equally gripping in terms of melody and movement, with a well-placed stop that hits just before the chorus drops in, giving meaning to the term 'pause for effect'. The chorus strikes with memorable and powerful lyrics that are followed with a truly mosh-worthy chorus outro transition. It's stacked with transitional phrases and all sorts of musical flavour, and while I'm not going to deconstruct the whole song I simply can't stress how satisfying it is to listen to. I will say that it's been heavily earmarked as my favourite on the album so far.
...Or is it 'Arm Yourself', which continues the dark and thrashy journey started by 'Flying Monkeys'? Perhaps my favourite track of the album is 'Dark Trip', which introduces a notably more deliberate and sombre setting akin to that of 'Blackbird' - the title track of Alter Bridge's 2007 album release. Maybe I prefer 'Fall Again', which drops the album into a powerfully cool and emotive intro before opening the floodgates to an awesomely vicious, distorted chorus.
I don't think I can sit here and childishly say that every track on 'Cauterize' is my favourite track, but I'd probably be lying if I didn't say something to that effect. Each track explores a different aspect of Tremonti's own personal influence that ties together to create a complete and full-bodied experience, with no awkward lulls in interest or overly-dramatic twists in style that might serve to spoil the fluidity of the album – though exploration of style is a key element within this release.
To the keen ear, the musical content within 'Cauterize' can certainly be traced back to its predecessor and indeed Tremonti's work within previous bands. Taking inspiration from what seems to be the entire span of his musical career, there are hints of familiarity laced tightly within a layer of progressively developing speed and thrash themes, drawing old and new fans in with an equal embrace. Tremonti confidently reaches out to pastures new, stepping over the foundations laid by 'All I Was' to delve deeper into a style of music that may shock and surprise fans of his brighter, more Rock-infused work. 'Cauterize' is undeniably dark in places and thick with emotion throughout, but it doesn't strike me as an unfounded change of pace for the guitarist - more a sort of 'natural progression'.
I feel it's worth mentioning at this point that the slightly overcooked autotuning that somewhat synthesised the vocal tracks of 'All I Was' seem to have been drawn back to the realms of an 'enhancement tool', allowing more of Tremonti's natural tone to pull through the mix. A minor observation at best, though it wouldn't be the first time I've heard this point spoken of when referring to 'All I Was'. Thankfully, There are no 'Cher' moments from Tremonti here – though there weren't really any in his previous release either, but hey-ho, people will whinge about pretty much anything where they can.
Perhaps it's this minor tweak in production - coupled with the development of style and punchy delivery in the music displayed in 'Cauterize' - that make it so damned good as a both a follow-up and standalone release. There's a metric fucktonne of musical development housed within the album, yet still the listener is presented with the familiar and comfortable mixture of technicality and emotion pouring from each track. It's incredibly hard not to enjoy, relate to and fall in love with every edgy riff, powerful lyric and blasting rhythm on the album for one reason or another, and the truly kinetic and emotive journey is well worth coming back to over and over again. I'm going to repeat myself once again to make it 100% clear to anyone reading this review: this album is fucking fantastic.
As I breeze my way through the second half of the album (which continues with an equal measure of colourful and captivating expression) I don't think I can bear to pick apart every nook and cranny of the album, through fear of soiling the experience for those wanting to hear it for themselves – and I strongly suggest that any fan of Tremonti's exploits thus far would be foolish not to.
'Cauterize' is an absolute belter of an album, taking everything presented in his debut solo release 'All I Was' and quite simply making it better. I can say with complete confidence that every track is positively bleeding with emotion, thick with twisting movement and memorable moments throughout. I'm a bit of a grumpy bastard when it comes to reviewing music and can almost always find some sort of fault or negative point in everything I view under the microscope, but I simply can't in the case of 'Cauterize' - and that makes me one incredibly happy chap.
Have you checked out our exclusive video interview with the man himself? MetalTalk's Mark Taylor faces off with Mark Tremonti for a one-on-one battle of the Marks! Well... not quite, but they have a bloody interesting natter - check it out here!