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Alter Bridge: AB IIIAlter Bridge: AB III
Roadrunner Records (Europe)

Thematic Approach a Winner for Alter Bridge on AB III

It seems every hard rock or metal band has attempted some sort of concept album recently, making the prospect of listening to another dense, cerebral journey somewhat tedious. But in the case of Alter Bridge's AB III, the voyage is well worth taking. The album delivers a 65-minute brooding, yet fascinating, look at singer/guitarist Myles Kennedy's personal struggle with faith.

As Kennedy and fellow axeman Mark Tremonti described in their initial promotional interviews about AB III, the ride through Kennedy's tortured psyche is a wild one. The trip begins with "Slip to the Void," a cut that immediately features a sweeping vocal that warns against the train of thought toward disbelief. The song is a great example of AB III as a whole, as the music's tempo changes and overall progressive style sets the stage for the roller coast ride of emotion to follow.

"Isolation," the second track and lead single of AB III, showcases the thrash metal influences of Kennedy and Tremonti, along with bassist Brian Marshall and drummer Scott Phillips. Blistering riffs and aggressive vocals support the tune's lyrical content, which talks about withdrawing into yourself and disconnecting from the world.

The third selection from AB III is probably the most surprising on the album. "Ghost of Days Gone By" starts out almost serene, being fairly reminiscent of U2's lighter moments. By the end, however, the song switches gears and ends up in a distinctly more haunting place. This is a clear example of the battle waging in Kennedy's mind.

Perhaps the most emotionally jarring song on AB III, "Wonderful Life," sits at the center of the record and is a tale of watching someone you love slip away to death and coming to grips with the reality that they are gone. Alter Bridge has tackled this subject before, first on "In Loving Memory" from 2004's One Day Remains and most recently, the title track from 2007's Blackbird. Predictably, "Wonderful Life" straddles the stylistic middle ground between those two songs and like them, is sure to hit home with those who have experienced the death of a loved one.

If you're looking for a happy ending to this tale of questioning and despair, you won't find it on AB III. The epic closing track, "Words Darker Than Their Wings," features Kennedy and Tremonti alternating lead vocals during the verses, each with an opposing viewpoint. The exchange of opinion wraps the album perfectly, with Kennedy's trademark wail being the last vocal the listener hears, leaving you with more questions than answers.

Overwhelming from an emotional standpoint, AB III is without question as dark and foreboding as advertised. That said, its strength lies in the fact that the album can be listened to as a complete work or as stand alone songs, with no break in quality or loss of impact. It is a testament to the continued growth of the band as songwriters and musicians.

- Brian Heaton

Editor's Note: This review is of the 14-track original album, which was released in Europe on Oct. 11. The United States version of AB III will contain two bonus tracks, "Home" and "Zero" and will be released on Nov. 9.

Copyright 2010, Brian Heaton. All Rights Reserved.