Following Creed’s meltdown in 2004, guitarist Mark Tremonti regrouped his former rhythm section that same year – pointedly swapping out divisive frontman Scott Stapp for gale-force newcomer Myles Kennedy – and something astonishing happened. Where Creed had been lumpen and pious, Alter Bridge were lean and hooky, spitting out four classic albums in a 12-year hot-streak, and planting the hard-rock flag deep into the modern age. If you’ve only got time for 10 tracks, make it these…
10. Ghosts Of Days Gone By
A welcome sunbeam amidst the stormy AB III tracklisting, Ghosts dealt in country-tinged lickage and a rose-tinted lyric described by Kennedy as “a reminder of your mortality, that the clock is ticking”. It’s a point made explicit by the unsettling bridge section, with the singer howling “Don’t wanna die!” like he’s just found the Grim Reaper on his doorstep.
9. In Loving Memory
Tremonti lost his mother two years before Alter Bridge’s formation, and his pain was still palpable on the most intimate lyric-sheet he’s ever handed to Kennedy. Couplets like “Even though you’re gone, you still mean the world to me” might not give Dylan sleepless nights, but fused to the cascading riffs and heartfelt chorus, this was a route-one singalong to shake stadiums.
8. Cry Of Achilles
The Bridge had expressed a desire to “not sound typical” on fourth album Fortress, and backed up the soundbite with this shape-shifting opener. With a Metallica-style flourish of classical guitar, then a jackhammer riff and a vocal ordering us to “tear it down”, this was the sound of a rulebook being torched.
7. Ties That Bind
The first song written for the Blackbird album, Tremonti recalls Ties That Bind “setting the aggressive sound of the record”. With a string-skipping riff that breaks into a seismic verse, and a lyric doubtless aimed at their former record label, it’s one of the most pummelling cuts in the catalogue. No wonder bassist Brian Marshall has cramp by the second verse live.
Tipped by Kennedy in interviews as “real heavy”, Isolation didn’t disappoint when it led the charge for AB III in 2010. Fusing a jaw-breaking thrash-metal bridge with a melodic chorus that might have hijacked FM radio in some parallel universe, it’s a schizophrenic gem from the band’s top drawer.
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5. Open Your Eyes
“I swear we worked on that for months,” Kennedy told Classic Rock – but the grind was worth it. As the first single from debut album One Day Remains, Open Your Eyes arrived with the thrilling realisation that here, at last, was a hard-rock band to treasure, and a writing partnership fizzing with potential.
4. Broken Wings
It opens in innocuous fashion, with a glistening Hendrixian lick backing up Kennedy as he mutters in the lower registers. But everything changes at the 1.30 mark, as a key turns and the singer springboards through the octaves to belt that solid-gold chorus. The temptation to raise a Zippo above your head is almost overwhelming.
Granted, the title sounds like, well… ahem, but between the tribal drum tattoo, Tremonti’s industrial grind and Kennedy’s soaraway vocal, this anvil-heavy highlight from One Day Remains was the ultimate shoulda-beena-single. Metalingus was used by WWE wrestler Edge as his ring-entry music – and remains the perfect soundtrack for a bar-fight.
2. Rise Today
During these unstable times, there’s still an emotional resonance to the wide-eyed optimism of Rise Today, which gets away with its earnest love-thy-brother sentiment thanks to the force-ten execution. As their traditional live finale, it’s the kind of call-to-arms that few modern bands are able to muster.
Kennedy’s farewell to a fallen childhood friend, Blackbird saw the band “beating our heads against the wall for months” but ultimately became their signature tune, running the emotional gamut across its eight-minute duration. The icing is the instrumental break, split between an emotive Kennedy and a fret-melting Tremonti, and subsequently crowned the greatest solo of all time by Guitarist magazine. “That was a really special song,” says Kennedy, who admits the band don’t try to top it, because they’d be “destined for failure”.