When hard rockers Creed split up earlier this year with vocalist Scott Stapp going solo and guitarist Mark Tremonti forming new band Alter Bridge, few tears were shed on the tea-drinking side of the Atlantic. In fact, rarely can a band who have sold so many records in the US (22 million sales from three albums) have induced such hatred in Blighty, with virtually every magazine referring to them as “those Christian rockers” or Pearl Jam copyists.
What a pile of steaming turd. The truth is that most of Creed’s lyrics spoke of Stapp’s personal struggles with his faith, as far removed as you can think from agenda-driven evangelism. “Those Christian rockers”? Does anyone ever refer to the Beastie Boys as “those Buddhist hip-hoppers”?
And as for comparisons with Pearl Jam, anyone who can listen to any Pearl Jam album post-1993 and claim that their increasingly mellowing, Neil Young-inspired noodlings bear the remotest remblance to Creed’s metal-tinged heavy rock (save for Stapp and Vedder’s baritone) needs an ear transplant. And a brain one.
Given the discussion above, it is slightly ironic that upon listening to Find The Real – the opening track from Alter Bridge’s debut album – the first impressions are that we’re back in 1991 and one of Pearl Jam’s peers, Soundgarden, has been resurrected. Tremonti’s guitar is drop D tuned as far down as it will go, the riffs are doomy and grungy and it sounds like vocalist Myles Kennedy has been to (Chris) Cornell University.
It’s a stonking song mind, and as the album progresses Alter Bridge gradually forge their own identity – including being distinct from Creed. Watch Your Words and Metalingus, for instance, are downright heavy metal and mighty fine to boot. The latter may have a terrible title, but it’s possibly the album’s standout track, with huge, mosh-tastic riffs, a memorable chorus, a chunky metallic bridge and a go-for-broke finale.
Of course, listeners will spot Creed-isms at work – it would be unnatural for there not to be any – but in general that means melodic rock songs that register high on the anthem-o-meter, and that’s no bad thing. Open Your Eyes, the brooding Burn It Down and the aching In Loving Memory are all quality, arena-sized rock songs that perhaps shouldn’t work but do, such is the strength of their hooks and melodies.
And if Down To My Last tries a little bit too hard to be like Creed’s life-changingly good hit Higher, then Tremonti’s superb fretwork and guitar tone partially atones, leaving you in no doubt that the man is truly one of the finest rock guitarists out there.
One Day Remains is way better a debut than anyone had right to expect. The rhythms are tight, the guitaring immaculate, the vocals accomplished, there’s everything from commercially-minded radio rock to balls-y heavy metal, and most of the choruses hit the sweet spot.
With Scott Stapp about to release some solo material, Creed fans may just be lucky enough to get two great bands where once there was one. Everyone else should put aside their prejudices – they might like what they hear.