Alter Bridge – Pawns & Kings (Album Review)

alter bridge - pawns and kings album review

Alter Bridge – Pawns & Kings 
Released: Friday October 14th, 2022

Line-up:

Myles Kennedy // Vocals/Guitar
Mark Tremonti // Guitar/Vocals
Brain Marshall // Bass
Scott Phillips // Drums

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There are a lot of bands that you could say are synonymous with the hard rock genre, including the Florida quartet of Mark Tremonti, Brian Marshall, Scott Phillips, and Myles Kennedy, aka, Alter Bridge. Formed in 2004 in Orlando, Alter Bridge have spent the last 18 years going from strength to strength and in July of 2022 they announced their new record Pawns & Kings, due to be released this Friday, October 14 via Napalm Records.

The record kicks off with ‘This Is War’, and right from the first note you know that you’re in for a wild ride. It’s definitely a heavier Alter Bridge that we’re being introduced to here, and personally, I’m living for it! It’s a great opener and it’s got heavy guitars, it’s got double kick, and it’s got Miles going absolutely OFF with that signature voice that makes the band just that little bit more interesting. ‘Dead Among The Living’ is track two and it’s got one of my new favourite lyrics. Specifically, ‘You are so much more than who you chose to be’, and as someone who has struggled with self-confidence, it really resonated with me, especially when it’s followed up with ‘You are the dead among the living’ and it definitely got me thinking in a good way. The breakdown in the latter part of this is also sick and I can see people really moving to it. 

Silver Tongueopens with heavy, chugging guitars that continue throughout the track, joined by gut-busting drums and a complimentary bass riff throughout. The instrumental on its own would be a great standalone, but Miles’ voice just really elevates the whole thing. Next up is ‘Sin After Sin’ and while it has a much calmer vibe than the previous 3 songs, it’s still just as heavy. It’s also one of the longest offerings on the record and comes in at just under 7 minutes, but somehow manages not to sound repetitive. There’s two things I particularly enjoyed about this track, the first is Scott Phillips’ drums, and the second is how hauntingly beautiful the vocal performance is.

The halfway point of the record is marked by ‘Stay’, which has Mark Tremonti taking on the lead vocals and it’s a really nice change of pace that brings just a little bit more to the track. It’s quite a happy sounding release, but lyrically it’s not what you think it’s going to be. ‘Don’t wait, it won’t last forever, and allow your heart to heal’ is one of the stand out lyrics for me and all up it’s just a really beautiful song. ‘Holiday’ follows and that calm you felt listening to ‘Stay’ is shattered almost immediately as the heaviness and the pace kick back in. It’s also the shortest on the record, but still has a run time of just under 4 minutes. That 4 minutes still manages to get in some punchy drums, with Scott Phillips really getting to show his raw talent with a solo in the second half that will have you doing your best air drums while you’re jamming to it.

‘Fable Of The Silent Sun’ is an eight-and-a-half-minute journey that could have been broken up into a couple of separate songs but somehow works as one. The first part is a ballad that is slow and soft before the heavier guitars kick in and the instrumental takes centre stage whilst underpinning the vocal. The next part of ‘Fable Of The Silent Sun’ continues on with the heavier vibe given throughout the record and there’s a great guitar solo in the later part of it that leads into the final section of the song. The last 2 or so minutes shift between being softer with almost spoken vocals, and being harder and heavier. It’s a great journey that doesn’t feel as if it’s 8 and a half minutes, which is definitely a good thing, as you never really want to feel as if you’re slogging through a trackthat long and waiting for it to end. ‘Season Of Promise’ hits your ears next and it’s in my opinion anyway, the only ‘bad’ track on Pawns & Kings. There’s nothing that makes it ‘bad’, it’s just not as strong as others on the record and feels a bit flat after ‘Fable Of The Silent Sun’. It’s got a great guitar solo right at the end, but overall it just feels a little repetitive.

Second to last is ‘Last Man Standing’, and the overall vibe of it is a little dark, but in the best way. There are two heavier parts to this one that I wouldn’t call breakdowns, but they stand out in the mix, as does my favourite guitar solo on the album that I could listen to on repeat and not get bored of it. Rounding off the record is the title track, ‘Pawns & Kings’. It’s easy to see why this was chosen as being the final song on the record, even though it was the first single to be released back in July when the album announcement was made. Musically it just really feels like a closer, especially when there are several sections throughout that are just instrumentals that break up its 6-minute run time nicely.

It’s obvious that Alter Bridge have been together for 18 years because sonically they are really cohesive as a unit and just gel really well together. Pawns & Kings is a solid album that shows why Alter Bridge have an almost 20-year career that doesn’t seem to be coming to an end any time soon. It’s a great balance of light and shade throughout that further cements the band as one of the best in the alt rock scene.

alter bridge pawns

Alter Bridge – Pawns & Kings tracklisting

1 This Is War
2 Dead Among The Living
3 Silver Tongue
4 Sin After Sin
5 Stay
6 Holiday
7 Fable Of The Silent Son
8 Season Of Promise
9 Last Man Standing
10 Pawns & Kings

Rating: 9.5/10
Pawns & Kings is out October 14. Pre-order/save here
Review by Kelsey Trevan @Kelsey_139

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