Nobody expected Alter Bridge to be a great band. Composed of three quarters of Creed and fronted by Myles Kennedy – then known for leading alt-rock also-rans the Mayfield Four – everyone was prepared for them to be another product of the post-grunge machine spewing out Sick Puppies, 12 Stones, Theory Of A Deadman and other such crap. However, the quartet quickly rose above. Using peerless vocals, adventurous songwriting and Mark Tremonti’s guitar chops, they transcended their scene to become melodic metal standard-bearers. To celebrate the release of Pawns And Kings, here’s every Alter Bridge album ranked from worst to best.
7. The Last Hero (2016)
Each of Alter Bridge’s first four albums has its own identity. One Day Remains is the 'jock rock' one, Blackbird is the 'progressive' one, AB III is the 'dark' one and Fortress amalgamates all three. What makes the band’s fifth their worst is its lack of character: no heavier, sillier or more profound than its predecessors. It makes the lion’s share of songs sound like they were written using an algorithm. Michael Baskette’s over-production scrubbing the dirt from under their nails doesn’t help, either. That said, when The Last Hero hits, it’s a ten-count knock-out. The title track is the apex, going full prog metal with its off-kilter drumming. Plus, Losing Patience is a must for any gym playlist, its chorus layering “May you rise, your time has come” on top of motivating wails.
6. Walk The Sky (2019)
After The Last Hero, something fresh needed to be done. Alter Bridge decided that sourcing inspiration from electro-rock and synthwave was the way to go, and the risk largely pays dividends. Godspeed nestles its digitised notes nicely against Myles’ voice and a gentle drumbeat, while Walking On The Sky reserves them for some post-chorus pomp. Indoctrination, on the other hand, has guitars with such overwhelming oomph that they drown out the synths intended to be their complement. Sadly, it seems that the band had little faith in the experiment: only four of Walk The Sky’s fourteen songs made it onto the tour setlist. And, with them ditching any trace of electronica on Pawns And Kings, it’s hard to see this being more than a footnote in the Alter Bridge legacy.
5. One Day Remains (2004)
Although it’s low-ish on this list, make no mistake: One Day Remains houses a plethora of Alter Bridge classics. Broken Wings remains one of their greatest moments, escalating from a silken soul lick to a chorus that encapsulates post-grunge at its emotive best. Meanwhile, The End Is Here hints at future fearlessness with its post-metal crescendo and Metalingus flaunts a chorus so good that the WWE used it to thrust the band onto the world’s stage. But between the highlights lives some butt rock filler. Is anyone really clamouring to have the Alice In Chains infringement of Find The Real re-enter the setlist? With Myles not yet writing songs or duelling with Mark on guitar, this is an incomplete preview of the glory to come next.
4. AB III (2010)
AB III is Alter Bridge’s bleakest and most fascinating album. At its heart is a religious debate between God-fearing Mark and former believer Myles, who at four years old lost his Christian Scientist dad to appendicitis. Finale Words Darker Than Their Wings makes the push and pull overt, as the two exchange lead vocals to tell each other “I swear I still believe” and “I know that you try, but still it is gone.” Myles’ nihilism also infects opener Slip To The Void, which cries “You were once led to believe. You were young and so naive, but now no longer.” The only downside is that that darkness sometimes hinders the hooks. Make It Right and Fallout especially lack the bombast that wedges so many of the band’s other songs into people’s brains.
3. Blackbird (2007)
Towards the end of the One Day Remains cycle, Mark made an earth-shattering discovery: Myles could play guitar. So, for album number two, he quickly promoted his bandmate to rhythm player, co-songwriter and fellow solo machine. Blackbird proved that that choice was a stroke of genius. Just listen to the title track. Alter Bridge’s answer to Stairway To Heaven remains their magnum opus: eight minutes of vocal versatility, delicate and destructive riffing and back-and-forth soloing. In fact, every song slays, ranging from Rise Today’s radio rock call to arms to the acoustic serenade that is Watch Over You. White Knuckles and Wayward One are underrated masterworks as well. In just one hour, Alter Bridge proved they were infinitely more than just “Creed 2” – and flew miles above their post-grunge contemporaries in the process.
2. Pawns & Kings (2022)
Alter Bridge switched up their writing style for album number seven. Instead of composing melodies first and all else later, the riffs ruled the roost. Pawns & Kings is easily the band’s heaviest outing as a result. Opener This Is War is an instant kick in the bollocks, interrupting its own staccato chugs with Myles’ multi-tracked yells. Then, Dead Among The Living shows off its groove metal muscle using some marching percussion. Holiday’s guitars screech for their lives through incessant pinch harmonics and Fable Of The Silent Sun tears itself apart until only hammering chords remain, all before the title track wraps up with a chorus strong enough to bench-press a continental shelf. It’s the freshest the band have sounded in years and the most hard-hitting they’ve ever been.
1. Fortress (2013)
The AB III tour turned Alter Bridge into arena-level stars in Europe. The band only affirmed their position with follow-up Fortress, which both retains the heaviness of its predecessor and reincorporates the larger-than-life scope and hooks of Blackbird. Long story short: it has everything. Lead single Addicted To Pain is adrenaline in sonic form, darting from downtuned chugs to piercing howls, before Calm The Fire and the title track push the band’s songwriting and Myles’ voice to untested extremes. Cry A River is all-out thrash metal exhilaration, yet it somehow isn’t jarring when cast against the balladry of All Ends Well. The best One Day Remains chorus that One Day Remains never got even shows up on Farther Than The Sun. Alter Bridge may have outclassed their peers on Blackbird, but here they ticked all the boxes needed to make flawless melodic metal.
New Alter Bridge album Pawns & Kings is out October 14 via Napalm