Alter Bridge Get Bigger & Better on ‘Pawns & Kings’

Heavy and epic, the new record from the Orlando-hailing four-piece proves that metal only gets better with age.

What makes Alter Bridge such an iconic project is that it is about genius minds coming together to craft a true rock and roll experience. You have Myles Kennedy on vocals – one of the most iconic in the scene – and Mark Tremonti on lead guitar – someone who is ranked by numerous outlets as one of the best players in the world. Brian Marshall works hard on bass as another mastermind, the one behind Creed’s music. Finally, there is the fantastic Scott Phillips on drums here giving it his all. Every member of this band has given so much to rock music already as individuals, so when they come together under the name Alter Bridge, it truly is a treat. With a band that has also been around since 2004 – almost two decades – there can be a lot of pressure to constantly perform to the highest possible standard. We are happy to report that the band’s new album, Pawns & Kings, is a delightful return to form and the band’s best outing in a decade. 

The instrumentation of this album is by far the selling point. Every member of Alter Bridge feels like they’re performing at their highest capacity, their peak, their best. Not a single second was shoehorned in. They utilize the space on every track with expert precision and enthusiasm. Tracks like “This is War” and “Sin After Sin” have explosive energy. “Fable of the Silent Sun” deserves special praise as an eight-minute epic. “Season of Promise” has a chorus that needs to be belted at maximum volume from an amphitheater.

There are constant guitar licks and even more drum fills that give this record so much personality. Everything about Pawns & Kings sounds enormous and gradious. It’s an album that feels theatrical simply because of raw talent. The performances are so stunning it makes every track come alive in the biggest, boldest way. 

A special credit must be given to Mark Tremonti as lead guitarist of this project. I’ve always found his guitar expertise to be a huge factor of why this band is so popular, and on Pawns & Kings, he sounds the best that he has sounded in years. Tremonti has such a signature style of playing that it is completely unmistakeable. He is one of the few people that I will say has fully and wholeheartedly mastered his craft. This album is filled with some of his most infectious and face melting solos to date. 

The only area in which the new Alter Bridge record is a little lackluster is the lyrics. A lot of the time it feels very hollow and repetitive… and sometimes it feels like an imitation of every classic rock theme done 100 times before. However, the lyrics are easily forgivable because this is not about the lyrics. Alter Bridge builds an atmosphere around every track – for every track. It is more about the music than the words. Every musician is talented so that the focal point of the album is by far their playing ability. No, there won’t be a songwriting stanza that makes your jaw drop, but, yes, there will be a guitar solo that changes your life. Once the listener goes in with the mentality of, “I’m here to listen to some of the best rock musicians of my time,” they will enjoy the album experience far more.

Overall, Alter Bridge dropped arguably their best album in 2022 with Pawns & Kings. This is a completely unpredictable listening experience for any fan of guitar-driven music. If any of our readers are sleeping on this album, they should listen to it immediately. It’s the kind of album that I can already imagine will inspire a new generation of metal bands and punk rockers.