In the shadow of such arena stomping colossi as Creed and Alter Bridge, Mark Tremonti’s solo venture has, in your scribe’s opinion up until now, felt lacking. Never being outright bad and often capable of huge songs (as you can expect from the driving force behind the two former), the previous Tremonti albums have not hit levels of adventurous writing that Alter Bridge, in particular, have been capable of, and at worst have felt fairly plodding and generic. Proving that fans of any of his works should never write him off, however, I was pleasantly surprised to find that A Dying Machine (Napalm) is a step up for the Tremonti band in virtually every fashion.
Based on a conceptual idea that Tremonti (the man, is this getting confusing yet?) had during an Alter Bridge tour, and further novelised by award-winning writer John Shirley, A Dying Machine is still based on, for the most part, simple and catchy songs but also follows its narrative rather well as opposed to the story being surplus.
Album opener ‘Bringer Of War’ is a straightforward, rousing effort which hits the mark but also suggests on first listen that you are going to get more or less the same. That is until album highlight ‘Trust’ appears, offering a moody, open and tender reprieve, and showing a greater versatility to this album than had been evident on previous offerings. Elsewhere the likes of ‘The First The Last’ and ‘Desolation’ further cement this newfound range in emotions throughout the album which, although far from cutting-edge, do show an improvement; whilst the likes of ‘A Lot Like Sin’ maintains the standard Metal/Hard Rock balance and are amongst the strongest such songs this collective has produced to date.
While it may be a bit overly long with some filler, and, no, it still doesn’t quite reach the ambition he has achieved elsewhere, but for this band, A Dying Machine is head and shoulders the strongest part of its catalogue, with a thoughtful narrative matching well with strong, anthem-ridden songcraft. It isn’t flawless, but it is well worth a look at.