June 8, 2015 Tremonti – Cauterize (Album Review)
Mark Thomas Tremonti, best known for his work with the bands Creed and Alter Bridge, has taken the music industry by storm. The Florida-based musician spent years helping create hit records with Creed and Alter Bridge, finally setting aside time to dive into a solo career in 2012 when he unleashed his debut, All I Was, under the simple moniker Tremonti. Now, three years later, he returns with his sophomore solo effort titled Cauterize, set for release June 9th. With Eric “ERock” Friedman on guitar, Garrett Whitlock on drums, and Wolfgang Van Halen (son of guitar legend Eddie Van Halen) on bass, this album gives listeners not only a collaboration of exceptional musicians, but also exceptional songwriting. With Van Halen’s talent rivaling that of his father, Whitlock’s unstoppable, arm-breaking speed on the skins, and Friedman and Tremonti’s fret-tearing action, this is a band to be reckoned with.
The influences of bands like Metallica, Slayer, and Pantera, to name a few, are easy to recognize on Cauterize and are used most effectively. Tremonti fuses modern Thrash with melody, and the album features a lot of Tremonti’s distinctive poly-rhythmic pounding on his signature PRS (Paul Reed Smith) guitar. Generally, Tremonti uses three elements to make his unique music: He starts with a melody, combines it with Speed Metal, and then colors the songs with complex rhythms, these combining to make a powerful statement. The majority of the songs on Cauterize begin with the signature speed metal chords and melodic coloring, so that the song takes the listener on an exhilarating and violent ride on a turbulent sea before bringing her into calmer waters. A few of the songs, without warning, take listeners back into the storm, and the violent attack does not let up. Whether it is the calm or the storm, the note and chord choices are perfectly suited to Tremonti’s lyrics. He weaves the fabric of a story that is all too common, addressing themes such as pain, regret, forgiveness, and, ultimately, finding inner strength.
“Radical Change,” the first track, starts with a charging and frantic array of speed metal sounds mixed with a double bass and amplified by powerful drums. The Metallica influence is prominent here, along with many other earlier Heavy Metal artists, but Tremonti puts his signature to it, undeniably. “Flying Monkeys,” one of the more fluid pieces, adds a special flavor with a catchy refrain, “I’m inclined to take my time, I’ll take this to the grave…” There are many references to Tremonti’s past in this song, and the lyrics and melodic timing resemble the music of Creed in many ways. Tremonti’s battle cry lingers long after the last note reminding us that those evil monkeys stay with us, much as we try to shake them.
The title track, “Cauterize,” also begins with a speeding pace, and the instruments and vocals harmonize perfectly. The end of the song has a calming effect as if the singer and his troubles have settled into the setting sun, the atmosphere of the song providing a significant change in mood. “Arm Yourself,” again, starts out with a frantic guitar, which blends into a slower, more controlled melody as the drums continue their hard-hitting reminder that the pain is still present. The song then shifts back to Speed Metal, with the reminder to “arm yourself, today this will all be done…” Here, the lyrics provide a nice reminder of Tremonti’s ability to write words that resonate with the soul. Conveying a more melodic, melancholy atmosphere, well-suited to the lyrics, is “Dark Trip.” Filled with excellent harmonies, both vocal and instrumental, the track is similar to the Creed style for which Tremonti won a Grammy. There is also no missing the influence of Santana in this piece, and Carlos would be proud.
Lead single “Another Heart” features an excellent guitar solo, rich melodies, and a mix of vocals and drums that resonates pure beauty. The next few songs seem to combine the melodies with the driving beat of Heavy Metal, and this is done to perfection. As Tremonti has stated, he knows how to blend melody with Thrash Metal and color it all with rhythms to fit the mood of the message packaged within. This is evident on “Fall Again,” which reminds the listener to keep trying no matter how difficult the situation. Tremonti’s ability to bring the mood of a song back full circle is a gift. The cut “Sympathy” is a song of hope, as most of Creed’s songs were, which made the band different from many of its contemporaries. Metal that focused on anger and dissatisfaction was the staple of many and the battle cry of the masses, but when someone throws hope into the mix, as Tremonti did with Creed and continues to do with his solo band, it makes the music more accessible for those who need a positive message.
Tremonti colors his music with a message of hope and wraps it inside those hard-hitting, skin-pounding beats that take the listener from tumultuous storms to calm seas, but these contradictions in mood are intentional, crafted in a calculated and meticulous manner. Tremonti and his band continue to rival other groups in the genre, as the dynamic musician never fails to mix it up so that the listener really feels what the music is all about. Tremonti strives for perfection, to make the next creative endeavor better than the previous, and each one proves to be just that. Tremonti’s latest contribution to the Heavy Metal genre is one album of two he and his band have put together. The second one, Dust, which was created and recorded at the same time as Cauterize will be out sometime in the future. In the meantime, the world can indulge in Cauterize. CrypticRock gives this album 5 out of 5 stars.