Album Reviews

Alter Bridge – Pawns & Kings

(Napalm) UK release date: 14 October 2022

Sporting sharp vocals, compelling riffs and potent lyrics, this is a stellar release from the Florida rockers

Alter Bridge - Pawns & Kings Floridian guitar botherers Alter Bridge have been bringing excellency and star quality to the hard rock scene since 2004, when the band released their Billboard Top 5 debut album One Day Remains. In 2007, Blackbird followed; certified gold in the UK, the guitar solo of the title track was voted by Guitarist magazine as the ‘greatest guitar solo of all time’ in their 2011 list. They’ve been a scene fixture ever since.

Their latest opus Pawns & Kings is now upon us, and ‘epic’ seems the right word to describe it. Powerful, full throttle vocals, captivating guitar riffs and solos, and hard-hitting drums are the order of the day, with earworm following earworm. Almost every track has the potential to be a single, starting with intense This Is War. The chorus and guitar solo zigzag like a snake, and after a single listen you cannot get it out of your head.

Dead Among The Living keeps up the spirit, a brilliant song with many layers. But then comes monumental Silver Tongue, with an instant hook. That snake is back, along with fine storytelling, to make a solid, inspired song. Grinding guitar riffs accompany the very satisfying Sin After Sin.

On Stay, Mark Tremonti steps out of his backing vocal role to take the lead. It is an upbeat ballad, that kind of track during which you turn your flashlight on when watching live. Holiday proceeds full-swing; as fun as it can be, this is a true hard rock hit to make you spread your wings and fly. 

Fable Of The Silent Son is the longest recorded song by Alter Bridge, clocking more than eight minutes and 20 seconds. It is a composition that takes you on an adventure to Avalon and beyond and prompts a warm feeling, recalling Symphony X’s Divine Wings Of Tragedy or The Odyssey. Season Of Promise sounds like the continuation of the saga, as does Last Man Standing. The latter, however, appears to bring a more positive vision of the future than the former. Thumbs up nevertheless.

And, last but not least, the title track, Pawns & Kings. It’s a masterpiece in songwriting, hard rock with a meaning. Dynamic, it kicks off quiet and it storms off with a punchy battle cry: “The last shall be first, give it time. If in the end we’re still alive. Our victory will justify. That we are right where we belong.”

Alter Bridge’s Pawns & Kings was produced by Michael ‘Elvis’ Baskette, a long-time of the band since Fortress. The album does not disappoint; on the contrary, it’s unbelievably good. Sporting sharp vocals, compelling riffs and potent lyrics, this is a stellar release.

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More on Alter Bridge
Alter Bridge – Pawns & Kings
Alter Bridge – Blackbird
Alter Bridge @ Underworld, London
Alter Bridge: “We are about playing honest, passionate rock” – Interview
Alter Bridge + Switchfoot @ ULU, London