December 1, 2022

Alter Bridge – Pawns & Kings – Review

Release date: 14/110/2022

Label: Napalm Records

Genre: Modern hard rock


Myles Kennedy, vocals, guitar
Mark Tremonti, guitar, vocals
Brian Marshall, bass
Scott Phillips, drums

List of tracks:

1 This is war, 4:04
2 dead among the living, 4:52
3 Silvertongue, 4:19
4 Sin after sin, 6:42
5 Stay, 4:37
6 Vacation, 3:58
7 Fable of the Silent Son, 8:22
8 Season of Promise, 4:51
9 Last Man Standing, 5:33
10 pawns and kings, 6:18

Heavy, epic, pompous and intense. And that’s just the first minute of the opening track from Alter Bridge’s latest album, ‘Pawns & Kings’. The band have never been shy about delivering hard-hitting rock music but ‘It’s the war’ really ups the ante in terms of energy and power.

Mark Tremonti’s 3rd minute solo brings a smile and allows us to settle in with an old friend as we explore the 10 tracks on offer from the quartet. ‘dead among the living‘ follows the high-energy opener and, as they say, keeps the pedal firmly pressed to the metal, with more thunderous riffs from Tremonti backed by the powerful rhythm section of Brian Marshall on bass and Scott Phillips on drums.

Once they eliminate the “need for speed” from their system, Myles Kennedy layers his distinctive, silky vocals. However, with each break, Tremonti finds a space just big enough to insert another lick or another riff and it’s that synergy between the band members, each making sure there’s no lull in the music that makes this Alter Bridge’s most complete album to date. If we were at the counter of our local butcher, then ‘pawns and kings would be the leanest, most appetizing cut available to us with all the fat cut away, leaving the juiciest steak ready to cook.

Of course, the cuisine is what the group brings to the table and just like Michelin starred chefs, they know exactly how to present the most appetizing dishes. Alter Bridge’s celebratory piece, the dish everyone wishes they could create, comes in the form of ‘Fable of the Silent Son’. Clocking in at around 8 minutes, the track begins with Brian Marshall’s signature bass before the other members weave a sonic tapestry that begs to be heard live when the band finally return to UK shores later this year. The track builds and builds and just when you think it can’t go any further, it all stops, all the instruments passing in the background before a soft guitar riff starts the song all over again . A softer vocal line runs along the guitar and for the next minute or two we’re allowed to regain our composure, taking a breath, before the song winds back to its epic conclusion. A timeless masterpiece.

Season of Promise’, Last Man Standing’ and ‘Holiday‘ gives us more of what we’ve come to expect from the band on previous releases, ensuring longtime fans stay happy and smiling. ‘Last man standing’ especially with its distinctive picking that opens the song and then runs as the undercurrent behind the body of the work works very well. It shows just how much a hugely experienced band can create when songwriters and musicians work in harmony. It all feels like a team effort with egos checked at the door to ensure the best can be brought to the table by everyone involved. Kennedy’s vocals are always impeccable and when he hits the highs, Tremonti follows suit making sure the instrumentation is as good as anything Miles can present.

The album definitely shows growth and maturity, as it should when showcasing musicians with their experience and pedigree. Alter Bridge is a band that is clearly comfortable with their work and the foursome are so in tune with each other that they know what will work and what won’t.

It’s no more obvious than on the closing title track. Another 6 minute epic, ‘pawns and kings makes us want more, so much more. With around 53 minutes in total on offer, in a world where the attention span is 15-25 seconds of Tik-Tok videos, letting us ask for more is a skill indeed.

Rating 10/10

Reviewed by: Adrian Hextall

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