Review: Nathan Lagden
While Tremonti may not have been around long, their frontman, after whom the band is named, has been one of the most renowned guitarists in Rock and Metal since the late 90s, achieving a great deal of success originally with Creed and then Alter Bridge. While the frontman of the latter band, Myles Kennedy, is off touring with Slash, Mark Tremonti has taken to releasing albums from his own band with songs he wrote which apparently don’t fit into either of his two other projects. In fact, his band’s third release Dust was written and recorded at the same time as their previous album Cauterize and comes only a year after its release, so my biggest worry going into the album was that it would be more of a rushed B-sides album than one which was able to stand on its own two feet.
My doubts are swept away pretty quickly after the short fade-in of the album’s opening track My Last Mistake gives way to a brilliantly fast-paced intro with guitars, bass and drums all interlocking superbly. It’s taken five seconds and my head is already banging. The rest of the song follows suit and Mark Tremonti‘s vocals seem to go from strength to strength on every album, with Dust‘s opener being an especially good example. Good verses, an even better chorus and of course a trademark Tremonti solo. One song in and I’m dying to hear more.
The Cage begins with a pounding drum beat before launching into a crushing guitar riff which keeps up throughout. This is definitely one of the heaviest songs Tremonti has ever attempted, with Mark almost shouting through the verses but arriving at a stellar chorus which is great to sing along to, giving the song a more Metalcore feel than anything else, as strange as that is to say. The song has a relentless pace which is maintained throughout the solo and towards the final chorus. Once again my hair is flying through the air to this one.
The heaviness is kept up into the next song Once Dead as well with another booming guitar and drum intro. Afterwards the tempo does die down a little, but definitely for the best as it gives us a bit of a contrast with the track before and allows the song to go through peaks and troughs, which are very easy to get into. Once Dead has not one, but two solos to get your teeth into as well, and when it’s Mark Tremonti controlling the fretboard, that really is no bad thing by anyone’s standards.
The album’s title track is up next, which comes as something of a relief because this much slower number gives the listener a much needed breather from the onslaught so far. Dust is also the main single from the album and as good as the first three songs were, I can definitely see why this was chosen. The song goes in a more alt rock direction with melodic verses building into a stunning chorus which completely consumes the listener when it builds up to it. It has the best guitar playing on the album so far as well. Whereas the other songs felt slightly rushed, this was timed perfectly.
Betray Me brings the heaviness right back again, which is welcome to an extent but as powerful as the guitars at the start of the song undoubtedly are, it does really feel as though we’ve heard it before and makes Dust feel like the only unique song on the first half of the album. It’s another very good song, don’t get me wrong, but for all the same reasons as the tracks listed above. Still though, it’s another great song to belt out at the top of your lungs once you’ve heard it a couple of times.
A slower and darker intro starts off the next track Tore My Heart Out and the verse at first appears to carry on this theme, but it does have a wonderfully constructed build throughout which is so subtly done that I didn’t consciously notice it first time around. In case you needed reminding of Tremonti‘s writing abilities, this song will definitely serve as ample example. It’s a pretty ambitious track all-round with its multiple layers and excellent use of the backing vocals of rhythm guitarist Eric Friedman. The necessity for the recording and mixing to be absolutely spot on or they couldn’t succeed with it. Thankfully, all of those things are achieved to create another terrific song.
Catching Fire is the aptly named track to follow, which I say because the song feels like it’s just waiting to really spark into life for the first introductory verse, and it absolutely does so straight afterwards. The exhilarating tempo decreases for more epic choruses and an interesting breakdown midway through, which subsequently launches straight back into one of the best sections on the album to really go nuts and bang your head to. It ends on a high too, with a great vocal-driven outro which is another time where you really do have to wonder why it took Mark Tremonti until 2013 to start singing lead vocals.
Another breather is needed for Never Wrong which brings us back down tempo once again. This is not as strong a track as the other slower numbers on the album though. The transition from verse to chorus is noticeably disjointed and whereas Tremonti‘s other slower tracks work on the basis of their builds, Never Wrong has nothing of the sort and largely gets bogged down at the same level the whole way through. This is still not an overly bad song, but it’s definitely more of a filler than anything else. It does have another solo that would make any aspiring guitar player green with envy though.
The Rising kicks us back into life though with another song that’s filled with energy, crushing guitars and complimenting rhythm section. It’s another brilliant showcase of Mark Tremonti‘s vocal work as well. It’s the drum and bass combination of Garrett Whitlock and Wolfgang Van Halen which deserves special mention here though, because though they are great throughout the album. With this track it definitely feels as though they add something extra and carry the song further. The sections aren’t complicated, but they aren’t simple either and that is to their credit.
Tremonti rounds things off with Unable To See, the slowest song yet and the only one which can really be described as a ballad. With a simple chord-based clean guitar backing and only basic and not-very-prominent rhythm backing. That is until the bridge, when the distortions come back in again, but not so much that it completely changes the song. The chorus is another epic one which you can completely picture a whole crowd singing along to at a festival or something like that, if only Tremonti and the last song on their most recent album were popular enough to achieve that effect.
Still, the song’s quality is clearly worthy of it.
Dust is another very solid album from Tremonti and my fears of it simply being a B-sides album in disguise were definitely proven to be unfounded. However, despite the assertions I keep hearing that Tremonti‘s solo project is for those songs which don’t fit into his other bands and I can’t escape the feeling that we’ve heard this all before. The vast majority of these songs would not be out of place on a Creed or Alter Bridge album – they’re very good songs in their own right, but I would just have hoped that someone with Mark Tremonti’s undoubted talent and creativity could push the boat out a little more. Failing that, I can’t help but wonder whether combining the best songs from Dust and Cauterize into one longer album and trimming the songs which don’t really add anything would have been a better idea. I appreciate that the man’s got to sell records, so bringing out two in two years is better than bringing out one slightly longer one, but it would have turned a good album into a great album. It’s not going to stop me listening to Dust however, and it certainly shouldn’t put you off listening to it either because despite all of this, it remains a very good album on its own merits.