Three is apparently a lucky number for hard rock band Alter Bridge. Ever since the release of the band’s debut album, One Day Remains in 2004, the band has allowed no more than three years to pass between each of its albums. This even as its members have kept themselves busy not only with the band but their many side projects. Front man Myles Kennedy has released a handful of albums alongside famed guitarist Slash and the Conspirators while guitarist Mark Tremonti has released five albums under his namesake solo project. Drummer Scott Phillips has even kept himself busy on the side with hard rock super group Projected, crafting three albums with band mates John Connolly and Vince Hornsby (both of Sevendust) and Eric Friedman (Tremonti touring band). Each album that Alter Bridge has released up to this point has proven quite the success even with that three year window passing between each album and each band member’s busy side schedule, too, showing that level of luck. Pawns & Kings, Alter Bridge’s seventh album, is no exception to that rule, either. The nearly hour-long album (it runs 55 minutes to be precise) succeeds equally through its musical and lyrical content thanks to its overwhelming heaviness.
For all of the heaviness, there is some more emotional content featured in the 10-song record’s body worth noting here, too. It comes halfway through the album in the form of ‘Stay.’ This song will be discussed shortly. ‘Season of Promise,’ which comes even later in the album’s run, is just as uplifting while being heavy and melodic in its own right. It will be examined a little later. For those looking for Alter Bridge’s heavier, more fiery side get plenty of that here, too along with equally accessible lyrical content in the form of ‘Silver Tongue,’ which comes early in the album’s run. When it is considered along with the other songs noted here they and the rest of the album’s entries make Pawns & Kings overall one more of the year’s top new hard rock and metal albums.
Pawns & Kings, the latest album from Alter Bridge, is another fine new offering from the hard rock outfit, which formed years ago from the ashes of Creed. The album’s success comes both through its musical and lyrical content. There is plenty of heaviness throughout the album’s musical content and just as much in the lyrical themes, too. There is also at least one softer moment that is heavy through its softness midway through the album in the form of ‘Stay.’ The song’s musical arrangement immediately lends itself to comparison to works that the former Creed band mates — Tremonti, Phillips, and bassist Brian Marshall — composed as members of Creed. In the same breath, listeners can also compare the almost power ballad-esque work to songs the musicians composed in Alter Bridge’s early days. The schmaltzy rock opus makes for a good breakpoint for the album, too, switching things up if only slightly so as to keep the album’s overall musical picture interesting.
Thanks to that radio ready power ballad sound and approach in the musical arrangement, the song’s uplifting lyrical theme about looking past life’s down times and keeping as positive an outlook as possible becomes all the more impacting. The theme is delivered clearly and simply as Kennedy sings in the song’s lead verse and chorus, “Hold your hands up high and throw them in the air/Show that you care too much to feel this way again/Things that cause you pain/Just throw them to the wind/Don’t turn away again/For I am always at your side/As I take another look around me/As I’m trying to be all I can be/Try to make me something more/And/Don’t wait/It won’t last forever/And allow your heart to heal/Just begin to heal.” This is that clear encouragement for people to push on through life’s difficult times because those bad times are only temporary. He continues the message in the song’s second verse, singing, “Make just one last wish/And shout it to the sky/The time/It is right to love/To feel/To light a fire/We’ll never know just when we’ll have the chance again/To see it to the end/So do your part and make it last.” Here again is that message furthered, encouraging people to make the most of each day and to take advantage of every chance to make life better. That overall positive message, paired with the song’s equally accessible musical arrangement makes it one of the album’s most notable entries and just one example of what makes Pawns & Kings stand out.
‘Season of Promise’ is another positive, notable addition to the album that shows the ability of its musical and lyrical themes to connect with audiences. That is due in part to its musical arrangement. The opening bars of its verses, with their steady guitar riffs, are comparable to works from Foo Fighters. As the verses progress though, the comparison to the more melodic works from Alter Bridge’s early days and even from the band members’ Creed catalog become more evident once again. That duality makes the overall arrangement quite the unique presentation in its own right that is another welcome change of pace from all of the heaviness that is spread across Pawns & Kings.
The foundation that the musical arrangement forms in ‘Season of Promise’ is strengthened through the lyrical theme that accompanies said content. In the case of this song, the lyrical theme is somewhat existential. Kennedy said in an interview with Apple Music, that the song’s theme is meant to deliver a message of appreciating the knowledge that each generation’s predecessor offers, because it is invaluable to the human race from one generation to the next. This is made clear as Kennedy sings in the song’s lead verse and chorus, “We gather to foster all the knowledge we have found/Passed down from a generation/Long forgotten now/Like dust from the stars/Scattered from afar/We wait for the harvest/In the season of promise/That was sown through the ages/That brings us to see/Everything that was started/By the dearly departed/May it live on forever/For the future to be/To bring about our destiny.” It leaves the interpretation to be that the “season of promise” would be the now, the current era; the season of what is possible in other words. He is saying that we are waiting for that knowledge to be passed on. It is an interesting poetic fashion to deliver that message which, honestly, is rare for any rock band to tackle in the best way possible. He furthers that message in the song’s second verse as he sings, “The wisdom of all we are/And all we’re meant to see/A truth that can get us by/If only we believe/It’s never that far.” Once again here is that message that the knowledge in question is closer than we think, and it is up to us to recognize it. This is a message that so many people need to hear, if not everyone. To that end, it and the song’s musical arrangement make it such a powerful addition to Pawns & Kings in its own right.
For those who want something heavier, musically, along with equally heavy lyrical content, that is presented here, too, in the form of ‘Silver Tongue,’ which comes early in the album’s run. The album’s third entry, it is a rich, fiery composition that is everything that fans of Alter Bridge’s heavier side have come to expect from the band. The richness of the overall instrumentation alongside Kennedy’s vocals will keep listeners fully engaged and entertained.
The lyrical theme that accompanies that musical heaviness is indeed heavy in its own right. Kennedy said of the song’s theme that it is about those people who have only the worst intentions in mind, getting people to do what they want with no concern about the fallout for themselves because they know they will not get in any trouble for their vile actions and words. If that sounds familiar, it should, considered a certain political and celebrity figure *coughs, Donald Trump* perfectly fits that bill, along with certain other well-known figures. The theme is delivered clearly as Kennedy sings in the song’s lead verse and chorus, “Sitting in my ivory tower/Invincible to fall/Some would say my final hour/As you scale the wall/Step inside/I dare you all/And breathe the lies/And heed the call/When this is all said and done/I will have my way/And you will take the blame/You’re over the line/Under the gun/I am the reason for what you’ve done/Tooth of a crime you can’t outrun/Under the spell of my silver tongue.” This, again, so perfectly fits the vile actions and words of Donald Trump even if Trump was not the direct target here. The message continues just as starkly in the song’s second verse as Kennedy sings, “I swear to God/I’ll find a way/To prove I still belong/I’d rather watch it burn away/Than say that I was wrong.” This is such a fully accessible theme that will resonate so easily in today’s world. The fire in the song’s arrangement does so well to help illustrate the dark sense in that person’s mind. The whole makes ‘Silver Tongue’ yet another important addition to Pawns & Kings. When it and the other songs examined here are considered together and along with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole makes Pans & Kings one more of this year’s top new hard rock and metal albums.
Pawns & Kings, the seventh album from Alter Bridge is another example of what makes this band one of the top names in the current age of hard rock and metal. This is proven through its musical and lyrical content alike, as has been evidenced here. When those songs are considered along with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole makes this album another powerful new offering from Alter Bridge that is also among the best of this year’s top new hard rock and metal metal albums.
Pawns & Kings is available now through Napalm Records. More information on the album is available along with all of Alter Bridge’s latest news at:
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