Few bands consistently deliver great records. It’s even rarer for said groups to have maintained the same lineup since inception. Alter Bridge is one of these scarce acts that have maintained both of the above factors; for over 18 years! And their latest offering, Pawns & Kings, is yet another example of the quartet’s continued exceptional output.
Opening with “This is War,” it’s clear from the start that Myles Kennedy, Mark Tremonti, Brian Marshall and Scott Phillips are hell-bent on ensuring they deliver the quality their fans have come to expect. Honesty, this 4-minute blast of tight guitar riffs, banging drums, and Kennedy’s signature vocals set an expectation that could be challenging to meet. It is heavy and channels aspects of thrash metal through Tremonti’s fast-paced riffs, but this is balanced out by Kennedy keeping the tune grounded in classic Alter Bridge sound.
“Dead Among the Living” dials the tone up a tad, maintaining the heavy tempo but bringing things closer to the group’s signature sound. “Silver Tongue” is where the record really gets going, opening with a fast-paced, distorted guitar riff that doubles down on the band’s heavier nature; the tune evolves seamlessly towards its chorus, where Kennedy fully lets himself go, demonstrating why he has the reputation of being the top of many fantasy band line ups! The track is so catchy that “Silver Tongue” could possibly be considered the magnum opus of Pawns & Kings!
“Stay” shifts the tone slightly and unexpectedly, with Tremonti taking on the responsibility of lead vocals. Of course, Tremonti is no stranger to this role, having released several incredible solo records, and it is a welcome change of pace from the album’s first half. The tempo is scaled back somewhat, and whilst still heavy in its own right, it has a wholly different feel to it. It demonstrates that Alter Bridge look to utilize all resources they have at their disposal to innovate in their music whilst maintaining the band’s identity. “Fable of the Silent Son” is Pawns & Kings’ most epic track, clocking in at over 8 minutes—it’s like a mini album contained within one tune. The song has so many elements; from frantic guitar riffs to slower and subdued moments with gentler vocals, it’s a musical endeavour.
As always, Alter Bridge has delivered an outstanding record and whilst I cannot say it is their greatest triumph to date (its competition is strong), it is most definitely on par with the likes of Blackbird and Ab III. Of course, there are other great tracks on this album I have yet to cover, so I strongly recommend giving Pawns & Kings a spin at the earliest opportunity; you won’t regret it!
Pawns & Kings Track Listing:
1. This is War
2. Dead Among the Living
3. Silver Tongue
4. Sin After Sin
7. Fable of the Silent Son
8. Seasons of Promise
9. Last Man Standing
10. Pawns & Kings
Run Time: 53:36
Record label: Napalm Records
Release Date: October 14, 2022
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