Tremonti has been on an album-releasing binge lately, with Dust their third release in 4 years. The songs on this album were recorded at the same time as the ones on Cauterize, so these albums are meant to be consumed as two halves of a whole. They even have parallels in the album art to drive that point home. Technically, I have already heard these songs once, at the listening party I attended for Cauterize, but as mentioned before, the speakers were turned up so loud it was difficult to actually hear the songs, so this was my first real exposure to them.
As I was listening to this album, it struck me that it feels very much like a blend of their first two records, All I Was and Cauterize. It has some of the sonic experiments that characterized the latter record. In fact, the two best songs on the record are the most unique in this regard. “Unable to See” starts with a distortion-less guitar that sounds almost like an acoustic. The song kicks into gear with distortion at around the 1:39 mark, but retains its melodious qualities. The title track, “Dust,” starts with a single-note picked riff that catches the ear, but the vocals are what make the song special. It’s funny, Mark Tremonti and Creed bandmate Scott Stapp are rather different personality-wise, but their singing styles are actually quite similar. Tremonti pours the same passion and straightforward quality in his vocals that Stapp so often does, and it’s evident on the “Why did you head out?/Did you lack the love?” in the chorus of this song. The lyrics feel like they’re being directed at an absentee parent, and carry the anger of an abandoned child. Similar vocal highlights also occur on “Never Wrong,” where I swear I heard hints of a Stapp-like snarl in Tremonti’s singing, and “Rising Storm,” where he stretches to hit some high notes with awesome results.
Where Dust resembles All I Was is in its tight production and execution. This album is a little more unified, and doesn’t get lost in experimentation the way that Cauterize sometimes did. Echoes of different songs show up in others, such as “Tore My Heart Out,” whose melody is reminiscent of “Dust” and whose chorus is reminiscent of the previous track, “Betray Me.” “My Last Mistake” and “The Cage” feature the speed metal sound that pervades All I Was, but thankfully without the relentless drumbeat that I often refer to as “headache drums.”
As with any Tremonti record, Dust features some killer guitar solos. “My Last Mistake” has a nice solo that, rather than just being the super-fast thirty-second note-laden solos that Tremonti is famous for, is a bit more nuanced and fits the song very well. The solo in “Catching Fire” is notable in that it is largely chord-driven, rather than being a string of single notes as is typical. It also features a nice interaction between the guitar and bass, one of the few times that any instrument other than guitars and vocals does anything noteworthy.
The lyrics on this album are fairly opaque, but mostly seem to contain themes of betrayal and trying to move on from traumatic experiences. The themes of betrayal in “Dust” and “Betray Me” are echoed again in “Unable to See,” in which the song’s protagonist talks about how having experienced betrayal makes it more difficult for him to trust anyone going forward. “My Last Mistake” deals with how difficult it is to move on from a traumatic experience, a theme that shows up again in “Tore My Heart Out,” in which the protagonist urges himself to “reach inside or reach the end.”
In sum, I think Dust more well-rounded than Cauterize, while still stretching the boundaries a little. It is more reminiscent of All I Was in a way because it has two killer songs but is solid all-around. I would like to see them integrate bassist Wolfgang van Halen and drummer Garrett Whitlock into starring roles more, the way Tremonti does more now with his bandmates in Alter Bridge. But I think this is a definite buy it for anyone that loves straightforward, balls-to-the-wall rock as I do.
“Unable to See”