Alter Bridge - Blackbird

Mike Jennings 26/10/2007

Rating: 4.5/5

Alter Bridge's first album, "One Day Remains," was a huge critical and commercial success. It's an unusual and fickle beast, huge and immediate success with your first record - but not when you consider that besides vocalist Myles Kennedy, the rest of the band was forged from the acrimonious break-up of pop-metal outfit Creed. Despite the rest of the band's multi-platinum heritage, though, a second album is always a traditionally difficult time. Thankfully, though, Blackbird has avoided all of the pitfalls that are usually associated with a sophomore effort.

Lead single "Rise Today" kicks off Blackbird and introduces the album with a bubbling crescendo of thumping rhythm, powerful, vitriolic vocals and a blistering guitar solo that sets out the intentions of guitar demon Mark Tremonti and the rest of the band: they're going to blow your ears off with a noise that's both tuneful and, well, noisy. It's melodic and metallic, and it's fantastic.

Title track "Blackbird" is an eight-minute opus that tells a story about suffering and despair with the eponymous blackbird flying the nest before it's time, and sits in the middle of the record like a king on his throne; the lyrics are strong and daunting, creating a picture of dystopia and anger. The music is brooding and then launches into a complicated solo that succeeds in pumping every vein with energetic adrenaline. The band have said they felt that naming the album after Blackird was the natural thing to do; I can see why.

The sound of the album is fantastic although sometimes the production falters, disappointing in terms of depth occasionally to leave the drums and bass somewhat hidden by Kennedy's soaring vocals and the full, squealing guitars that seem to jump between heavy, crunching chords and occasional squealing licks and fills. It's a schizophrenic approach that's complimented by the range of arpeggio and riff employed to introduce Blackbird's 13 tracks.

It's a spellbinding collection of songs even though it lags a little towards the end - perhaps a symptom of the record being a track or two too long - but it's hardly a complaint at all - like saying Nevermind lagged a little at the end because it started with Smells Like Teen Spirit. Blackbird isn't as generation-defining as Nirvana's hugely successful album, being firmly slotted in an established genre, but it's a metal master-class that should be studied.

Because of that, this is an album you need to add to your collection - Alter Bridge fan or someone yet to be converted. This isn't a record that you should buy if you enjoyed their first album and have been eagerly awaiting the follow-up. It's a record you should buy if you like rock music - any facet of rock music - as soon as you can.