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Alter Bridge: Blackbird - Album Of The Week Club review

Blackbird was the album that fully heralded the arrival of the Alter Bridge sound, the shackles of Creed shaken free for once and for all

Alter Bridge - Blackbird cover art
(Image: © Universal Republic)
Alter Bridge - Blackbird

Alter Bridge - Blackbird cover art

(Image credit: Universal Republic)

Ties That Bind
Come to Life
Brand New Start
Buried Alive
Coming Home
Before Tomorrow Comes
Rise Today
Blackbird
One by One
Watch Over You
Break Me Down
White Knuckles
Wayward One

Alter Bridge's second album saw the Florida band emerge from a period of strife with a massive statement of intent. By 2006, relations with their then label Wind-
Up Records had soured to the extent that the band wanted out. There followed a protracted and bitter legal struggle, which was resolved only when Alter Bridge opted to buy themselves out of their contract. It was a risky move, not to mention financially crippling, but one they were prepared to take.

“We just wanted to persevere,” drummer Scott Phillips said. “After we recorded One Day Remains [their debut album], Myles [Kennedy] started playing guitar and found his comfort zone. That’s when we felt we had the best stuff ahead of us. We were in a really bad situation, but it was that need to press through. I don’t think we had any Plan B, it was all or nothing.”

Universal Republic snapped up the band for 2007’s Blackbird, an album that fully heralded the arrival of the Alter Bridge sound.

“I think we were trying to be safe with the first record,” says Tremonti. “So with Blackbird our main goal was to make this band sound completely different.” 

They did. And at its heart was the title track. 

“As songwriters, those are the moments you dream of,” said Myles Kennedy has said of the moment he and guitarist Mark Tremonti first listened back to the finished song, which has become – for many in the millennial generation – their brooding, muscular answer to Led Zeppelin's Stairway To Heaven.

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Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute. 

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Other albums released in October 2007

  • The Cult - Born into This
  • Anti-Flag - A Benefit for Victims of Violent Crime
  • Dashboard Confessional - The Shade of Poison Trees
  • David Byrne - Live from Austin, Texas
  • John Fogerty - Revival
  • Matchbox Twenty - Exile On Mainstream
  • Prong - Power of the Damager
  • Band of Horses - Cease to Begin
  • Electric Six - I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me from Being the Master
  • The Hives - The Black and White Album
  • Kid Rock - Rock n Roll Jesus
  • Puddle of Mudd - Famous
  • Radiohead - In Rainbows
  • Stereophonics - Pull the Pin
  • R.E.M. - R.E.M. Live
  • Jimmy Eat World - Chase This Light
  • Soilwork - Sworn to a Great Divide
  • Serj Tankian - Elect the Dead
  • Coheed and Cambria - Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume Two: No World for Tomorrow
  • Neil Young - Chrome Dreams II
  • Opeth - The Roundhouse Tapes
  • Rob Zombie - Zombie Live
  • Robert Plant and Alison Krauss - Raising Sand
  • Seether - Finding Beauty in Negative Spaces
  • Skindred - Roots Rock Riot
  • Helloween - Gambling with the Devil
  • Architects - Ruin
  • Exodus - The Atrocity Exhibition... Exhibit A
  • Avenged Sevenfold - Avenged Sevenfold
  • Eagles - Long Road Out of Eden
  • Puscifer - "V" Is for Vagina

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What they said...

"Alter Bridge are one of the most formidable collections of musicians in mainstream rock music, from a technical standpoint, and have really grown and matured with this release musically. They've successfully stripped away every Creedism that held them back on the debut. It's very impressive to me to see the band working and toiling to grow and mature into something unique that sheds the past the way they want, but unfortunately, they are not there yet." (Sputnik Music (opens in new tab)

"Right from track one, Ties That Bind, there was an aggressive vocal and thundering guitar riff that hardly relented throughout the entire album. Tremonti was freed to play lead guitar as Eddie Van Halen would have done, which is shown to good effect on the track "Come to Life," but the overall heavy thunder effect of the guitar throughout denied him more chances to show off this skill." (AllMusic (opens in new tab)

"They won’t win high marks for originality here, but they manage to evoke feelings of nostalgia without being overly corny or pompous about it. In short, this band does a really good job of not embarrassing themselves. That’s not something I can give them five stars for, but considering the musical excellence on display here, it certainly lands the band in 'above average' territory despite the fact that nothing they’ve done here could be considered 'innovative'." (Murlough23 (opens in new tab))

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What you said...

Mike Canoe: Until this week, all I knew about Alter Bridge was that they were one of a few bands that changed their lead singer and their name, like Rage Against The Machine to Audioslave or Stone Temple Pilots to Talk Show.

Blackbird was a surprisingly enjoyable album. I don't listen to a lot of 21st alternative metal or post metal or whatever because the vocals usually suck. I grew up with the screams of Halford and Dickinson but someone shrieking like he just broke his femur is not for me.

Myles Kennedy is not a shrieker. He's an honest-to-God singer and really good at it. He has a powerful voice that is also capable of nuance and subtlety. It stands out well against the heavy riffs the band is churning out. Mark Tremonti is also an excellent guitarist, if overly fond of that post-rock squiggle. The rhythm section is appropriately thunderous without reducing everything to sludge.

Favourites include opener Ties That Bind, Buried Alive, and especially the relatively upbeat Before Tomorrow Comes.

We've had some great singers this year: Meat Loaf, Pat Benatar, Ronnie James Dio, etc. I'm adding Myles Kennedy to that august list.

John Davidson: I like a lot of Alter Bridge songs but rarely listen to an album end to end.

There's something about the wall of sound production and Tremonti's relentless riffing that makes the songs blend together and become a bit samey after a while (this is most true on their album Fortress).

That said, they started to perfect their brand of melodic, muscular melancholy on this album Blackbird.

There are total stand-outs on this album in the title track Blackbird and Watch Over Me, with Brand New Start, Before Tomorrow Comes and Rise Today among the best of the rest .

They peaked with AB III, but Kennedy's best work is (arguably) to found on his albums with Slash. Overall I'd give this an 8/10 .

Chris Downie: Of the myriad of post-grunge hard rock bands to emerge in the late-90's, Florida's Creed were - along with Nickelback and Godsmack - among the most polarising. While they garnered huge success (particularly the diamond-certified Human Clay album) their output often felt compromised; for all the bona fide heavy rockers like Unforgiven, Say I and Bullets, there was run of the mill FM radio fare like With Arms Wide Open

This was compounded by the erratic behaviour of their frontman Scott Stapp, often dismissed as an unhinged evangelical Eddie Vedder imposter, and who precipitated their breakup while at their commercial peak. Conversely, this led to the formation of one of the premier heavy rock bands of the millennium.

Immediately improving on the metal-tinged post-grunge formula, Alter Bridge hit the ground running on their impressive debut One Day Remains, though admittedly half of the tracks were intended for a fourth Creed album and thus showed a band still finding their way. 

That was to come on their phenomenal second album Blackbird. From the metallic opener Ties That Bind to late album gems like Wayward One and pretty much everything in between, this is a contemporary masterclass in songwriting, sitting comfortably on the borderline between classic rock and heavy metal while having a cohesion their previous band lacked.

It is difficult to cite a single highlight in such a strong album, but the title track has been heralded as a modern epic, complete with stunning lead guitar work which showcases not only Mark Tremonti's talents but the equally capable guitar work of frontman Myles Kennedy, a multi-talented performer to rival Chris Cornell.

If there is one drawback, it is that it set such a high bar early in their career, one that they haven't managed to top and likely never will. While successor ABIII (a darker, but no less rocking affair) and the following effort Fortress (an experimental, almost progressive approach) very nearly managed this, the latest two have seen them slide into a familiarity that breaks little new ground. 

It is also telling that, on subsequent world tours since this release, Blackbird has remained the most represented album in their set lists. That said, there is no doubt that they delivered a stone-cold classic with this breathtaking sophomore effort, one that rightly stands up next to their classic rock and metal influences. 10/10.

Gary Claydon: Having cast off the Creed-isms of their disappointing debut, Alter Bridge really took flight with Blackbird. This was thanks in no small part to the evolution of Myles Kennedy, not only as one of the 21st century's best rock vocalists but also as a decent rhythm guitarist and, crucially, as a songwriter. This added depth and breadth to the material as well as taking some of the heavy-lifting off the shoulders of Tremonti, allowing him to blossom into the guitar hero he'd always promised to be. 

Blackbird is full of big, bruising riffery with some ready made arena-rockers. Standouts are the epic title track, album opener Ties That Bind the crunching White Knuckles and the more radio-ready Rise Today. It's not perfect, it's maybe slightly too long and there's a hint of samey-ness about proceedings but, overall, it's a fine album.

Phil Wise: Great guitar sound on this album of driving anthems. Good rock albums must be defined by their guitar sound!

Adam Ranger: Never really listened to Creed or Alter Bridge, apart from a free CD Sampler from Classic Rock some years ago. So I am listening to this fresh as it were.

First impressions: a very good record. Great guitar riffs, good lyrics , guitar solos, often intense building to a crescendo, anthemic tracks and a ballad too! too. I really enjoyed the listen. A couple of tracks are a bit samey but that is the case with so many bands .

Sounds a bit like Pearl Jam at times. But that is not a bad thing as far as I am concerned. Favourite tracks on first listen are Brand New Start, Before Tomorrow Comes and the epic Blackbird.

Will be listening to this (and more of the band) from now on.

Hai Kixmiller: I wasn't much of a Mark Tremonti fan, I was upset that he was the poster boy for most of the guitar magazines back then. I didn't feel that he was the caliber guitarist that I was used to from the 80s; In fact, I don't know the names of hardly any guitarist from the 90s or 00s. But I do remember a band called The Mayfield Four because the singer had quite the vocal range. That singer was Myles Kennedy. 

When Myles and everyone from Creed, except Scott, hooked up to form Alter Bridge I thought to myself this is just Creed with a better singer. But I was wrong. Just like how Audio Slave wasn't Rage Against the Machine with a better singer, but a whole different band, Alter Bridge also was a whole different band. 

With Myles soaring vocals, guitar skills, and writing talents, along with Tremonti's evolving guitar chops, Alter Bridge was a true rock'n'roll force to be reckoned with. On, Blackbird, Tremonti really shows off the speed he's developed in his guitar chops. He really blew me away with his new technique in his solos while still doing his trademark flourishes, and fills. Blackbird is surprisingly heavy and dark, and completely destroys any lingering comparisons to Creed. 

A great album by a great band. Their longevity and body of work is pretty epic considering how many different projects and bands Kennedy and Tremonti take part in. Despite how busy those two musicians are, they always deliver when it comes to Alter Bridge.

Elad Winberg: Great album, and it's my second favourite Alter Bridge album after AB III. I like the guitar tone and the lyrics, and Myles Kennedy sounds as good as ever. To me, it was a vast improvement over their debut, and showed talent and originality. In fact, most of their albums are great, and they are one of my favourite bands in the modern era.

Barry Keogh: First time listen for me. I had only heard one Alter Bridge song before, but was aware of the members in other bands. It's a good album but doesn't blow me away although the title track is a stand-out. Probably 7/10 for me, but I'm going to give it another listen before my final decision.

Alex Hayes: Apologies to any fans of the group, and to Messrs Tremonti, Marshall and Phillips, but I really did find Creed to be an absolute bag of wank. An overwrought and self-obsessed Pearl Jam knock-off, they almost seemed to epitomise the lack of quality present in rock music at that particular time. I'm nigh on incapable of sitting through the video for With Arms Wide Open without flinging something heavy at the screen. Just self-indulgent bollocks.

Imagine my surprise and delight then, when the three musicians of that band (whose personal attributes were never in question) managed to kick-start their career early in the new millennium with a brand new venture that, although not perfect, was still much more palatable than Creed. Alter Bridge has been a far, far better vehicle for the talents of those three musicians, Mark Tremonti in particular, and 2007's Blackbird was the album that sealed the deal.

What a difference a change in lead singer can make. I hadn't been aware until recently just how divisive Myles Kennedy is as a front man, as, personally, I find him to be one of the finest of the modern era. On Alter Bridge's decent 2004 debut, One Day Remains, Kennedy had been little more than a 'voice for hire'. He joined the band rather belatedly during that album's final production stages, and so his input was minimal. 

Blackbird benefits hugely from a far greater level of involvement from Kennedy, as guitarist and songwriter as much as a vocalist. Consequently, although Blackbird sold far less copies than One Day Remains, it was still the album that 'made' Alter Bridge.

Blackbird is the first time that Alter Bridge actually feel like a real band, as opposed to 'Creed with a different singer'. It's very much a crowd pleasing album, mainly composed of catchy, testosterone-fuelled, heavy rock songs, balanced out with lighter moments like Watch Over You. Big riffs, big choruses, occasional lighter waving moments, Blackbird has all those in abundance. It's one of the better examples of a modern day rock album, and tracks like Come To Life, Brand New Start and Rise Today were almost custom built for both rock radio and car stereos.

If anything, Blackbird is maybe a little bit too much for one sitting. It's certainly over-produced and smothering in places, something that would only increase on subsequent Alter Bridge albums. I also have to say that I've never been convinced by the band's lyrical content, not just on Blackbird but across most of their output (I've never heard 2019's Walk The Sky album).

Like many modern rock bands, Alter Bridge seem to enjoy wallowing in their own misery. To compound that, the darker, more personal, themes within most of their songs are delivered in a manner that feels vague and insincere to me. So, it's all maudlin' and miserable, but without a great deal of substance behind it. 'Manufactured anger' to quote an old Dream Theater song. There are exceptions to this. In Loving Memory from One Day Remains is one, and Blackbird's epic title track is another. Both powerful songs them, but, lyrically, Alter Bridge usually leave me a little cold. It comes across as angst-ridden just for the sake of it.

That shouldn't deter anyone from checking out this album though. Most rock fans were nowhere near as 'burned by the 90s' as I was, and won't have the slightest issue with Blackbird's themes. It still comes highly recommended as an album, as does 2013's Fortress, which is actually my favourite from Alter Bridge. Both are top quality modern era rock albums, and those are words that I would never have envisioned coming out with back in 1999 at the height of Creed. See, sometimes things do get better.

Mark Herrington: Difficult to be objective for a band I’ve been watching since their debut One Day Remains tour in 2004, and I have tickets for their UK tour this December. I had never really listened to Creed, so had no preconceptions when I first heard Alter Bridge.

The stand-out track, and probably their best song ever, is the title track Blackbird, which never fails to send chills down the spine, with a great emotional build and a thrilling dual guitar solo from Tremonti and Kennedy. The album is worth listening to for this classic alone.

The album, as a whole, is probably a little over long, and two or three tracks could have been trimmed to have a bigger impact. However, the core of the album has many of their great popular concert staples too, such as Rise Today, Ties that Bind and Come to Life. Songs such as Before Tomorrow Comes are hook-laden and made for rock radio. There are also the obligatory slower tracks such as Watch Over You.

Myles, in my opinion, has great vocals and an impressive range . Tremonti is a truly great modern lead guitarist. The volume of their output with solo albums, Myles' work with Slash and Alter Bridge’s releases is impressive .

So overall , a great rock album, with mostly great songs and a 9/10.

Rick Rohner: After Bridge are good. I liked the first album the best. I liked Creed but found Alter Bridge to be much heavier and edgier. This is a great follow up. I enjoy all the Alter Bridge albums as well as the Slash albums with Myles singing.

Philip Qvist: Despite what Rolling Stone magazine thought of them (or more likely because), I always liked Creed - I thought their songs were catchy enough, and could understand why they sold records by the truckload.

Having said that, I reckon that Alter Bridge is a far better band than Creed: and not just because their singer is a great guitarist in his own right - better crafted songs and a harder sound are also factors in play here.

It is pretty clear that Myles Kennedy's voice can polarise listeners, but I'm in the "I like his voice" camp - so I generally like what Alter Bridge produces. However, I do understand why this band has never come close to matching Creed's popularity.

If their debut One Day Remains still sounded like Creed with a new singer, then you couldn't say the same thing about their second album Blackbird.

Opening track Ties That Bind is confirmation of that, and basically the rest of the album, apart from a couple of tracks, carries on with the same vein - hard rocking numbers such as Rise Today, Before Tomorrow Comes, White Knuckles and closing track Wayward One. Watch Over Me is a much quieter song which adds some relief to the album, but, in my opinion, there is no doubt what is the highlight of Blackbird

At eight mins long, and written as an ode to a friend who was suffering from a terminal illness, the title track has it all; including explosive guitar solos from both Myles Kennedy and Mark Tremonti - and that song alone is worth the price of the album. But as great as it sounds here, get their Live From Amsterdam DVD to hear the full majesty of Blackbird; now that is an awesome version.

There is very little that I don't like about this band or album. Follow ups AB III and Fortress are also pretty special records, but I think Blackbird just shades both of them. This is definitely on my list of Top 10 Albums of the 2000s.

Fred Varcoe: I only discovered Alter Bridge a few years ago and it was through the song Blackbird. It's so indescribably beautiful and intense, I could listen to it all day. The problem is it dominates whatever it's next to. Take away Blackbird the song and Blackbird the album is great. Put Blackbird the song on Blackbird the album and it diminishes the album because nothing can compare to such a song of beauty. Put that song on any album and it has to get 10/10.

Greg Schwepe: So, what happens when you play “mix and match” and start a new band with core members from other bands that have broken up or are “on hiatus”? Well, in the 80s you ended up with Damn Yankees and Bad English. In the 00s you found yourself with Audioslave, Velvet Revolver… and Alter Bridge.

Alter Bridge; 75% of “make me gag” Creed and 25% new vocalist Myles Kennedy. The new dynamic drives this foursome in a new direction and you have a cool new modern rock band. Not just “Creed with a New Singer” for me.

I’m not sure what drove me to purchase Alter Bridge’s debut in the first place. Probably because guitarist Mark Tremonti was on the cover of every guitar magazine I subscribed to at one point. And after reading all the articles I probably thought “dang, he’s a nice guy, suppose I should check out his new band.” And after buying their debut and totally digging it, I couldn’t wait to check out Blackbird.

The opening salvo from Ties That Bind and you hear Tremonti’s guitar pyrotechnics on full display, letting you know that “yes, the guitar player has some chops.” Though at times it can sound like he’s trying to show you all his guitar tricks right up front during the first 3:19 of the album.

But for the “almost nu-metal” riffs of some of the songs, you have the moving acoustic intros on Rise Today and the title track, Blackbird. For me, both of these songs sum up the Alter Bridge sound, period.

The soaring vocals and positive “don’t give up” message of Rise Today give me goosebumps every time I hear it. And the eight minute title track just seems to take you places.

For me, Myles Kennedy is my vocal find of the 2000s, just like Lou Gramm and Steve Perry were for me back in the 80s. I just love his tone and style on everything he does, from Alter Bridge to solo Slash material.

I found Blackbird to be a solid follow up to their debut, and so much that I continued to purchase their new releases after this one. This was one of those new finds that got me excited about a band that wasn’t formed before 1984!

Mark Paul: Rising from the ashes of the divisive 90s rock band Creed, Alter Bridge emerged during the early 2000s and rapidly came to surpass the reputation of Tremonti, Marshall and Phillip’s previous band.

They didn’t come onto my radar until 2010’s solo effort by Slash, on which Myles Kennedy sang two of my favourite songs on that album (Back From Cali and Starlight). At that point ABIII was out so that was my entry point to Alter Bridge but I became rapidly aware that Blackbird was considered the classic album.

It’s a cracking album but ultimately these are the highlights for me: Ties That Bind, with its speedy yet sedate beginning (yes, I know) ripping into an absolute rocker gives you a window into what you’re in for. Come To Life starts with a bit of the nu-metal sounds but quickly descends into a riff reminiscent of early Black Label Society albums. Brand New start slows down the pace and verges on the first ballad of the album. Buried Alive picks up the pace again with some cracking wah riffs in the intro. Another of the singles Before Tomorrow Comes has rapidly become one of the set highlights, and with its anthemic chorus it’s no surprise that it’s a crowd favourite. 

Blackbird, the song, can be described as a near eight-minute masterpiece. Starting slowly with Myles Kennedy’s sweet vocals over a clean guitar, this rapidly swells into a simple riff of epic proportions. As we move on through the song you begin to sense that it is building towards something. The something it is building towards turns out to be probably the guitar solo of the album, which goes to show why Tremonti on the first run of Alter Bridge albums became the rock guitar hero for the modern age. 

Watch Over You is simplicity but the emotion and passion conveyed in the lyrics make this the standout ballad on this album, coming at the right time, pacing-wise, on the album. Not only is it the standout ballad on the album but, for me, also probably the standout ballad of the decade. I think White Knuckles is the last song I’ll mention on here. The intro packs a real punch. Probably the last real rocker on the album. As much as the fast paced riffs drive the song it’s incredibly impressive to see the melodies that Myles Kennedy can sing over the top.

With Blackbird it became clear that Alter Bridge meant business and it is no surprise that it has led them to become one of the bigger rock bands on the planet. Perhaps highlighting why the relevant members aren’t in any particular rush to do a Creed reunion. 8/10.

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Final Score: 7.68 (132 votes cast, total score 1014)

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