A Six-String Steamroller
The ineffable Wikipedia describes Mark Tremonti as a Steve Ray Vaughan fan with a double life in which he prefers to dream of Dimebag Darrell. It goes on to say that the guitarist himself recently confessed to such a description. Aside from the truth of that -which he would certainly sign off on without a problem-, it fits perfectly with one of the great heavy metal virtuosos of the 21st century, a talent who has grown artistically in the new millennium. Dust, his third solo album, is technically excellent... and as brutal as a steamroller.
Just like his previous album, Cauterize, since in fact it is part two of that disk. A double album released separately a few months apart but recorded at the same time. These are the problems of a hyperactive creativity which started up with Creed, exploded with Alter Bridge and a Grammy, and is now staking its claim with his own band under his own name. Wolfgang Van Halen handles the bass on both disks, giving a familiar "scent" that seems to float in the air on songs like Never Wrong in spite of the ongoing 'metallica' barrage. In the end, let's not forget, we're talking about thrash metal here. Heavy metal is their parents' thing. [Eric Friedman on guitar and Garrett Whitlock on drums complete the line-up.]
Tremonti has recognized now that he can't do everything. Creed, for the moment, is on hold. In early 2016, he recorded the fifth album with Alter Bridge, and that's on the verge of coming out now. While it's arriving, Tremonti is dedicating himself to promoting Dust while his alter ego Myles Kennedy, the best rock singer of the past decade, is making Slash's guitar shine, and appears to have turned into an essential part of his music. Net net, they have work for a while.
The great virtue of Tremonti and his collection of customized Paul Reed Smiths -another of his moonlighting jobs- is having gotten the maximum out of a genre as "rock solid" as thrash, where the speed and the double bass drum theoretically limit the possibilities. In practice, the guitarist from Detroit has turned making the riffs more complex without losing their power into an art form, and perfectly synched to a furious rhythm foundation.
As possessed as the solo of Dust, the title ballad of the album with a pleasing melody composed especially to spotlight the peak moment of Tremonti's guitar. A brief ‘pause’ before returning to the onslaught on Betray Me and Tore My Heart Out, perhaps one of the best cuts for grasping his ability to transmit emotions in the midst of a sonic storm of latest generation metal, the kind that went to bed after doing their homework listening to Master of Puppets.
However, neither Tremonti (41 years old) nor naturally the youthful Van Halen (26) are turning their back on their 'elders'. Wikipedia provides another good example when it declares that, despite his ‘vehicle’ being so high-performance and tuned, Mark wanted at all costs for the brakes to sound like the Stratocaster of his idolized Stevie Ray Vaughan. Two very different ways of approaching music but, in the end, one single guitar.
(Images: © Cordon Press)