I just picked up a couple of new, mainstream (mostly) albums last week: Avenged Sevenfold's self titled album, and Blackbird by Alter Bridge.
Avenged Sevenfold (AX7) seems to be going off on that weird path some bands follow: We got famous by doing a certain style of music, but now we're going to keep changing it up so that we alienate all but the most hardcore fans. AX7 jumped on the scene doing intricate metal music with a mix of screaming and clean vocals. I understand the frontman injured his voice and was inclined to switch singing styles on their third album, but City of Evil by and large was a metal album, still having intricate, heavy music.
By contrast, the new album has a mix of songs that sound similar to AX7, songs that have no similarity, and a song that makes you think they lost their f**king minds. The singer sounds like he is trying to emulate Axl Rose (badly, I might add), and the album as a whole seems disjointed and schizophrenic. The songs that sound like metal are fairly good (though they ruin one right at the end with some weird pre-pubescent vocals that sound awful), but the other songs are bad. Really bad. They close the album with a song that comes off like they tried to mix circus music with metal and rock opera lyrics, and a country western tune complete with pedal-steel guitars.
I am expecting either a complete return to form on the next album, or a completely ridiculous release that kills their relevance.
On the other end of the scale, Alter Bridge returns (finally!) with a new release that does them justice. On their first album, they were basically Creed with a new singer. That's not really a bad thing, but it left many of us wondering why they didn't just continue under the Creed moniker. Blackbird is truly a release from a band that is no longer Creed. Singer Myles Kennedy contributed heavily to the composition of this new album, and the rest of the band molded itself in to a new entity.
Blackbird is still filled with the stunning guitar work of Mark Tremonti, but he breaks new ground here and manages to stay away from his signature Creed guitar riffs. They even changed his guitar tone for most of the album to further differentiate themselves from their former band.
All in all, Alter Bridge delivered a very listenable and enjoyable album while proving they are much more than just Creed with a new singer. Here's hoping that they can keep releasing good albums without weirding out like some other bands.