It made sense almost a decade ago for Alter Bridge’s Mark Tremonti to form his own self-named side project which focused more on metal. And he’s had plenty of opportunity to release material as we now have album five, Marching in Time, in our hands. As the band explored different flavours between double albums, concept albums and many different sub-genres of metal, Tremonti aren’t a band who plan on playing it safe.
Whilst A Dying Machine was great for what it was, it left me a bit cold. Marching in Time feels more tangible and real in contrast whilst being the band’s most varied collection of songs to date. It’s not quite as heavy as All I Was or Cauterize but it’s still firmly in the camp of metal, albeit a touch more melodic. Despite being formed originally because Mark Tremonti had material that was “too heavy for Alter Bridge”, not many on this album feel like it would be too heavy and instead, it feels like he’s written songs with Tremonti in mind.
Indeed, it’s where the album shines best as it actually feels more ambitious than its predecessor and more self-assured than ever before. Album opener “A World Away” may begin with ominous, thunderous drums but it’s the slow burn and build to its marvellous crescendo which takes you from thinking “This isn’t a Tremonti song” to “Nope, this is definitely a Tremonti song”.
“Now and Forever” and “Would You Kill” is peak Tremonti with both of them featuring respective chugging riffs, the former containing an anthemic quality which runs through much of the album whilst the latter is laser-focused as a sharp-toothed predator. As both of the songs growl with power, Mark Tremonti’s vocals are once again elevated, showing the growth he’s made over the tenure of his solo work.
“Thrown Further” is Tremonti at their bombastic best as they channel the same kind of energy on past glories like “Wish You Well”, “Flying Monkeys” and “Take You With Me”. Naturally, it’s one of the true highlights as it shows how well the band works as a unit and a perfect example of what a Tremonti song should be. As riffs fly thick and fast, they mingle with aggressive drums as the bass works its way around it to create one of their most hard charging songs to date.
Elsewhere, there’s some bright tones on “Not Afraid to Lose”, acting as one of the tamer moments on the album, coupled with the slower-paced “The Last One of Us” but both still manage to show their teeth in the choruses. Meanwhile, title track “Marching in Time” is an epic (in the true sense of the world). As a parting shot, it doesn’t get much better than this. Whilst so many of the songs found on the album would be suited for the live environment, this one truly feels like it was purpose-built for it and would sound even better in such a space. As it combines all the sounds found throughout the album, combined with its lyrics, makes a euphoric conclusion and a hopeful future.
As the band are tighter than ever, Tremonti add in more shades of rock without diluting the metal we’ve come to know them for. The variation works well and it never feels like they’re trying to do too much. While Michael Baskette did go through a period of over-producing Alter Bridge, Slash, Myles Kennedy’s own solo works and the last Tremonti album, he’s since reined it in on subsequent releases of the aforementioned artists and followed through on it here, too, thankfully. While it’s a tough hurdle for them to jump in trying to better Cauterize, they’ve made their most interesting and engaging album since their inception. Marching in Time, more than previous albums, demands to be listened to in full as it pulls in all directions but never falters. It may be softer on the ears to those not versed in metal but it hasn’t stopped them from pulling any punches.
Marching in Time is out now