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Dedication breeds the best results. Grammy Award-winning multiplatinum guitarist and singer Mark Tremonti continues to wholeheartedly commit himself to his craft, barely drawing a breath for air in between his eponymous band, Alter Bridge, and Creed.
Following tours supporting his critically acclaimed 2012 solo debut, All I Was, and Alter Bridge’s chart-topping Fortress, he immediately began writing in his Orlando Studio at the top of 2014. Joined by longtime guitarist Eric “Erock” Friedman, drummer Garrett Whitlock, and bassist Wolfgang Van Halen—a studio first—Tremonti penned more than twenty-five songs over the course of multiple sessions.
“We wanted to do a ton of songs,” he affirms. “I decided to take my entire catalog of material, get everything out, and purge it. On All I Was, we couldn’t spend as much time on pre-production. Now, we took the time to tear the songs apart and put them back together again so they could become as dynamic as possible. That helped make the new music what is.”
Emerging from the most prolific period of his two-decade career, Tremonti delivers successive albums—Cauterize and Dust—on his Fret12 Records with production by Michael "Elvis" Baskette [Alter Bridge/Slash]. With Cauterize leading the charge in summer 2015 and Dust following in the near future, the one-two punch of modern thrash and melody that has become the group’s signature fuels this engine, but Tremonti tweaks it with a polyrhythmic jackhammer at just the right moments. As a result, the music stands at a crossroads between timeless metal, infectious hard rock, and progressive pummeling.
“We were going after three elements,” he goes on. “To me, melody is the most important part of any song. Combining that with speed metal is the most rewarding aspect of assembling the music. Then, we color the songs with a modern twist of polyrhythms. It makes a statement.”
Blasting out of the gate, “Radical Change” tempers a galloping guitar assault and double bass charge with an unshakable refrain as a searing lead explodes on impact. “It’s about somebody facing a huge change in his or her life and feeling the weight of the world,” he explains. “If you equated it to my life, it could be when Creed was breaking up. I was taking that step in a new direction as all of these decisions weighed down on me.”
“Flying Monkeys”—titled as such because it could serve as the perfect battle-cry for The Wizard of Oz’s flying monkeys—churns out a chugging groove and another jarringly catchy refrain. It could very well be the lovechild of Gojira and Alice In Chains, or a glimpse at the future of heavy…
“It’s one of my favorite riffs,” he grins. “The song itself discusses someone who takes a grudge to the grave and can’t forgive and forget. It’s somebody I don’t want to be. You’ve got to let go of that anger and resentment, but it’s not always easy.”
The single “Another Heart” punctuates a dominant distorted stomp with a gargantuan melody. “It goes right to the heart of a hypocritical dark person,” continues Tremonti. “Everyone has an individual like that in their lives.”
On the other end of the spectrum, “Sympathy” rises out of intricate instrumentation into a towering chorus worthy of stadiums. In many ways, it’s a landmark moment for the musician who has penned some of the biggest rock anthems in history.
“It enhanced the entire experience dynamically of Cauterize,” he says. “I love hard, dark, and moody music, but moments like this really show you how heavy the rest of the album is. It’s the light and positive energy of the record. It’s about the ups and downs of life and fighting adversity at all times. You get knocked down, but you’re driven to get by whatever problems you’re having.”
Tremonti’s tenacity is as loud as his tone, and it courses through Dust as well. The second album touts battering ram intro of “My Last Mistake,” the undeniable hum of “Unable to See,” the expansive and enthralling title track “Dust,” and more.
“On these records, we knew what we were capable of, and we ran with it,” he asserts. “The great thing about touring as a band is you realize what songs excite you on the road. That’s why when we got back into the studio, we followed the path we did and fortified this sound.”
It’s a sound that continues to engage listeners. The group sold out countless shows on its first-ever tour in 2013 and has a full slate of dates lined up ahead—including appearances at major festivals such as Rock on the Range, Welcome to Rockville, and more as well as ShipRocked. Meanwhile, All I Was solidified them as a metallic force with Ultimate-Guitar awarding it an impressive 9-out-of-10 and Revolver praising it with 4-out-of-5 stars.
However, Cauterize and Dust usher in the next age of Tremonti.
“I hope people can enjoy the music the way I do,” he leaves off. “As we were recording, there was this excitement amongst everyone. We go into every record questioning if we’ll be able to outdo the previous album. That’s my goal—to make a better record every time. If one fan thinks it’s better than All I Was, we’ve done our job.” – Rick Florino, March 2015