18 June 2015

Tremonti - Cauterize

When I first saw the cover of this album, I was a little curious as to what lay beneath the frankly fucked up image.  It is a strange picture no matter how you cut it; look at it – the man in the sky looks like the sun in a Watership Down spaghetti western nightmare and what is up with the burning boat?  But I wanted to find out what it was all about, as I do like to play album cover roulette.  Now I will do something different here and admit my early impression of the album before I start the blog (it will make sense, stay with me people), I did listen to the album before I started the blog and my first thought was that this band really wish they were part of either Creed or Alter Bridge.  Then I did my usual research afterward and I found out that this is really is the case for once, as this is the solo project of Mark Tremonti (hence where they get the name) and this is the second album released under this name.  Now, Mr Tremonti has sold out many arenas around the world, sold many albums as well – with Creed and Alter Bridge the western hemisphere of the planet has rushed (in places) to hear the music he has help created.  But side & solo projects are difficult beasts to manage; do you move too far and create a different style from your main project and risk alienating your original fan base and give caution to the wind, or do you stay so close to your original sound that it seems pointless do the side project.  Either way is laced with danger, especially when you name the band after your family name.  So let’s find out how it has done…..

Starting off the album is “Radical Change” which sounds like Strapping Young Lad meets Creed, but without any of Devin Townsend’s charm, wit or originality; the opening riff is impressing and would have made the fifteen year old me very excited – but I am not that age anymore and speed is no longer the only thing I look for in music.  Also, it chorus and bridge take so far removed from that crunching riff and it is that part where the Creed sounds comes through.  Whilst I would like to note that it sound well produced, well played and tight (is it pro-tooled?) I would also state that the last statement is not the same as saying that it is something I like; it is too clean in places for trash & speed metal.  The follow up song “Flying Monkeys” is now Metallica meets Alter Bridge (at least it is a difference), it is in the same pace as “Sad but True” from the ‘Black’ album from the metal legends (ironically it was also the second track from that album), but with that distinctive sound that comes from the guitar of Mr Tremonti.  Now I did chuckle at the title (watched the Wizard of Oz too many times as a child not to) and I must say that it is an improvement on the first song.  It sounds more solid, the riff has more texture; also the bass/drum combination just appear to make more noise.  However, I cannot get past the vocals of Mr Tremonti (who is also the lead singer here) and the fact he sound like as certain Myles Kennedy and it does not truly mix well for me on this type of track; the style and delivery when compared to his other work are just too similar for me when it needs to make a track that people can mosh to and it detracts from the song for me.  Again, not that it is a band performance is poor (quite far from it – I will get to this point again later) but when it is a new project do you not do something different to the day job?  Ok, time for track three – “Cauterize” comes out with the trash metal opening and then erupts into a classic rock dream which I am sure will make a lot of people roar is pleasurable unison; for me it takes that opening and pretty much destroys the good momentum that could have come from it.  It is beginning to sound like the main project cannot be forgotten for this side project – one part of me is thinking that it performed well, but the other part is shaking its head as they keep taking the opportunity to make it more soulful, wistful and it just crushes (for me) what could have a been a great slice of trash metal.  The fade out (whilst well played) reminded me of “My Sacrifice” by Creed again (not really a surprise if I am honest) and it felt like there was not letting go.

“Arm Yourself” does nothing to change the mixture of trash riffs being mixed in with Alter/Creed styling; you really have to either admire or despair at their commitment to the cause here – there is a trash metal band in here trying to get out, but it keeps getting trapped by this need for the soaring vocals of Mr Tremonti as the notes try to escape the void and float like an angel during a daring escape from the pit of hell.  I will be honest again, it is not a bad song by any stretch of the imagination and it could have been so much more with a slight change here and there to the song (it needed a bark instead of a clone of his other main singer, the atmospheric bridge in the middle is also not really needed); but once again it is down to personal tastes and I cannot fault the performance as it does not sound muddy, shite or tuneless - it just could have been better.  “Dark Trip” marks the mid-way point of the album and it plays straight into the normal Alter Bridge territory with an epic sounding number that will have their faithful wondering why it was not kept for one of those records.  In some ways it is against the spirit of the album in a way, it is the first song that does not have that trash element about it and this tale of a failing relationship just feels as doomed as its subject matter.  However, it does have the best solo of the album and once more the performance is not faulted – the song has just found its way into the public eye via the wrong record.  The sixth song is “Another Heart” and the mash up of trash/hardcore metal and Alter/Creed is back on track.  To say this is a bit preachy is like saying that FIFA is just in a little bit of a mess, the opening lines about being judged by God (or any deity of your choice I guess) is the band placing a Christian theme on this confused number.  I really am sounding like I am going around in circle, but like the rest of this record so far it is well played and bereft of any appeal for my personal tastes.

Starting with strange guitar sounds “Fall Again” and much like “Dark Trip” it is on the wrong record – this is another Alter Bridge song in all but name (yes I know this album contains Mr Tremonti, but still you would have thought a side project would have been for tracks that did not fit that mould).  Much like “Dark Trip” the feeling that it is not on the right record makes it feel so out of place, also like every other song on the album you cannot fault the dedication to the track or performance.  The next song starts with the sound like a hurricane coming, a full metal riff war and by the time “Tie the Noose” gets to the chorus you have the familiar pattern of opposite styles trying to fit into one number; I keep thinking that they have had some that have just been like the day jobs, why not one that just trashes the place?  The penultimate song “Sympathy” sadly does not fill that role for me.  In fact it really changes something of the pattern of the album, it is Third Eye Blind meets Alter Bridge and whilst it might not be cool to say this I have to admit that this song actually makes a lot of sense.  Do not mis-read me, it is a number that should not appeal to me in any way; but it works really well and has a spark that has been missing from 90% of this record.  It (almost) steps out into a new territory for the record and does not actually sound confusing.  If the album had have been more like this, it might have been a more interesting prospect (but one that I would feel confused about liking).  “Providence” ends the album and starts with an acoustic guitar and we are back in the Alter-Creed field of this record when the band kicks in fully, but this dramatic number is another number that you cannot really fault for the band; the drama is there and it sound well-polished, but there is also that feeling that you know it would have been slightly better if it was done with a different vocalist and it just me feeling a bit non-plus about the whole affair.

Now I am not going to say this is an awful record, I cannot do that as it has been well played (probably pro-tooled a lot) and there is nothing wrong in the sound in general terms.  But there is a lot of it that just sounds a little too confused for comfort.  Is it trash?  Is it post-grunge?  It is a messy affair of both if the truth be told.  When you have been in one of the biggest bands in America (whether you personally like them or not, you have to admit that Creed and Alter Bridge have been big acts) it must be hard to leave your normal style behind as you are known for that genre of music.  You can feel that desire to be and try something different, but it also has mixed into it the fear of moving out of their own shadow as well; it must be a curse in some respects because (for better or worse) they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t (which in this case they seems to lean to the later more often than not).  I also think that this should have been with a different vocalist, Mark Tremonti can sing and has a fine set of lungs, but he does not have the bark that this needed in places on this album.  If you are doing speed or trash metal, you need a bark and not a voice that could charm demons and angels alike.  I will not say this is a poor album, it would be a fools errand to say otherwise as they can play their instruments very well and the songs are not bad; but there is nothing for me to get passionate about here either or (which is probably more accurate) there is nothing here for me to get angry about either.  As I stated more often than I wished on this blog, two styles were clashing on the vast majority of the songs which bring a sense of confusion and as if the band did not know what they wanted to do at times (and not in a Zappa way).  I have read (afterwards I may add) that it is a successful union in styles, but it does not feel like it here.  Both are played really well, but the marriage is not a happy one. Another thing about this record is that it also feels so safe that it could almost come with a PC union rating that can be sold to a minor in Wal-marts supermarkets around the world.  An album that is trash or speed metal should not feel safe, have we not learnt from the ‘Black’ album off Metallica.  Due to the fact that the most middle of the road track on here made the most sense here, it makes me feel it is not for me and I can accept that.  I do not hate it, I am just non-plused by it. If you enjoy this, great; if you hate it, great - you are at least getting something more out of it than me, sorry Mr Tremonti.

3.5 out of ten - Not for everyone but played well

Top track - Sympathy

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can follow the progress of Mr Tremonti and his work (including this band) on Facebook here

You can stream the album on Spotify here

You can stream the album on Deezer here

The album is not on Tidal at time of review

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