Alter Bridge’s Pawns & Kings: more colossal anthems from the modern kings of arena rock

Album review: Alter Bridge carry on doing what they do best on new album Pawns & Kings

 Alter Bridge: Pawns & Kings album cover
(Image: © Napalm)

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Seven albums into their career, the chances of getting your hands on a new Alter Bridge album and being surprised by anything you hear are slim to none. This is a band who know what they do, know how to do it well, and seem content to deliver another big, fat, satisfying slice of it every few years. Those who crave creative sonic exploration from their artists may scoff at Alter Bridge for snugly remaining in their corner of the music world, but really the joke is on them, because there is nothing unworthy about a consistent ability to write excellent, instantaneous, colossal rock anthems.

Pawns & Kings just feels good. Dead Among The Living struts along as Myles Kennedy’s honey-coated voice delivers a hook that buries into your brain. Then there’s Myles and guitarist Mark Tremonti duetting on the earnest, skyscraper post-grunge of Stay and Mark living out his Dimebag Darrell fantasies on the groove metal stomp of Holiday. Myles’s vocals go from a whisper to a soar on the title track, backed by a juicy, thick cut of pure riff goodness from Tremonti, and when they move into full rage mode, as they do on the thrashy Silver Tongue, you’d have to be a cloth-eared fool to deny that this is a band with bite. Frankly, every moment here inspires a clenched fist; a banged head; a hop, skip and a jump in your walk.  

It’s nothing new by this band’s standards, but these types of songs are incredibly difficult to get right, and if that’s hard to believe then check out many of Alter Bridge’s lumpen and forgettable peers. That they’re able to keep the listener interested and engaged this deep into their career without ever really deviating from their core sound is proof of their calibre. 

Pawns & Kings might be exactly what everyone expects from Alter Bridge, but it’s also exactly what any true fan would want from them: quality and consistency personified.

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.