For those about to rock – loudly, earnestly, grungily and Americanly – Alter Bridge salute you.
Yes, the music’s got guitar solos. Yes, it’s slightly phallic. Yes, it’s old-fashioned. But as the impending reunion of a certain Page, Plant, Jones and Bonham (Jr.) demonstrates, then so long as you can write the songs, there will always be a sizeable following.
Now no-one’s suggesting that thirty years from now, fans will be taking down phone lines for the “privilege” of paying two hundred pounds to see Alter Bridge live (at least not unless inflation means that two hundred pounds in 2037 is worth a lot less than it is today). However, as they did on debut album One Day Remains, Alter Bridge have managed to write more-than-a-few, more-than-decent songs that deserve airplay and applause.
Unlike One Day Remains, Blackbird has stronger gusts of metallic air upon which to fly. The musical pace of opener Ties That Bind mirrors the impatient sentiment of the lyrics (“I tear on the leash that keeps me contained and controlled”). Come To Life and Coming Home, meanwhile, benefit from beefed-up riffs and decidedly non-reticent percussion while still producing strong choruses.
However, it is on the three songs that lie in the middle of the album that Blackbird’s creative powers peak – surprisingly when Alter Bridge swap metallic bluster for melodic lustre. Before Tomorrow Comes and first single Rise Today have obvious but oh so pleasurable hooks, while the title track is unquestionably the album’s pièce de résistance. An eight-minute paean to a lost loved one, it never comes close to sounding mawkish and instead counterpoints an ascendant tune with doomy, emotionally-charged riffs that somehow create a general sense of uplifting. Superb.
Elsewhere on Blackbird, it’s fair to say that the quality ebbs and flows somewhat. That’s not to say that there are any bad songs but there are a handful that don’t quite have the requisite strength of tune to rise above the ordinary.
Nevertheless, that simply means Alter Bridge aren’t perfect yet – something that their flawless live performances were in danger of having us believe. For now, this will still do nicely.