Mark Tremonti gets nowhere near the credit as a guitarist that he deserves. Maybe it’s a residual reticence from his earlier days in Creed (though if it is, that’s a really stupid reason), but it’s often overlooked just how much he brings to the fold in his bands. Alter Bridge’s most recognisable quality might be Myles Kennedy’s voice, but it’s Tremonti’s standing as such a technical cut above so many other modern hard rock guitarists that ties everything with that band together. And yet, even in his own eponymous side project, the lack of attention paid is even greater, despite this arguably being a more ambitious and savvy project than Alter Bridge have ever been. After all, this is a band who’ve included Wolfgang Van Halen among their ranks and already have a perfectly solid two-part project under their belt, and that’s been almost completely ignored.
For yet another example, look at A Dying Machine, Tremonti’s first attempt at a concept album surrounding lab-grown cyborgs that come to wage war on their human creators, with an accompanying full-length novel due later in the year. That’s the level of ambition we’re dealing with here, but because of Tremonti’s work in Alter Bridge, that’s more than likely to be greatly diminished. And that’s a shame, because even without its literary counterpart, A Dying Machine is an enormous, progressive example of the extent that Tremonti are willing to take their hard rock without bowing to heavily to tired tropes. On the other hand, a considerable amount of bloat keeps it from being truly essential, but hard rock as powerful and forward-thinking as this is hard to come across.
Above all, it’s worth looking at Tremonti himself for the best evidence of this, as there’s rarely a moment where he doesn’t show his immense musical calbre. Of course, this isn’t virtuoso level or anything (for all intents and purposes, Tremonti are still ingrained in the radio-rock sphere), but with tracks like Bringer Of War or Traipse, the difference in overall quality and technique is night and day. There’s minimum adherence to the modern rock waterline here; even with the closest examples like Take You With Me or the power ballad The First The Last, they feel a lot more robust and streamlined than the majority of overweight single material (even if the heavier pop-rock tones of the former don’t exactly feel like the best use of the band’s talents).
Of course, the inherent lack of diversity that comes with radio-rock like this hasn’t gone away, and on a few occasions, A Dying Machine feels as though the band are overcompensating by cramming in as much as they can. With fourteen tracks clocking in at just over an hour, it’s inevitable that not everything feels as though it belongs here, and especially as it goes on with the likes of As The Silence Becomes Me or the unnecessary instrumental coda Found, the lack of individual ideas to fill this entire body of work becomes all the more apparent. Still, the highlights are plentiful enough to overshadow this completely, and given the remarkable consistency of both Tremonti’s foundation-testing vocal power and lack of any sort of mollycoddling towards the overtly metallic production job, it’s rarely a dull album to listen to.
And for an album in this vein, that’s more than enough. If it wasn’t already the case with the past releases (which for the record, it was), A Dying Machine is inked-in proof of how crucial Tremonti are for their scene . Not only can they pull off a complex, deep narrative with impressively few hiccups, but it’s just an enjoyable listen overall, taking the template of soaring, accessible hard rock and just doing it better. It’d be a shame if Tremonti continue to go unappreciated after A Dying Machine, but at the very least, the quality is there in spades.
For fans of: Alter Bridge, Trivium, Metallica
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘A Dying Machine’ by Tremonti is released on 8th June on Napalm Records.