BANDS Alter Bridge's creed: Don't become Creed

Former Creed members unite to make more aggressive music.
So you're in a rock band, one that generally receives little acclaim from critics but the public loves the innocuous, spiritual rock music you write with the other members.
You all blow up and in about five years sell 30 million records worldwide. Hit singles abound, and the band picks up a Grammy. But with such quick, massive success comes inflated egos, especially for the lead singer. The infighting eventually stifles the creativity. And the group fractures.
We've heard these stories many times before; we've seen them unfold in documentaries on VH1. It's the story of guitarist Mark Tremonti and Creed, perhaps the biggest post-grunge band of the late-'90s. After the unit dissolved in 2004, Tremonti and other former Creed members -- drummer Scott Phillips and bassist Brian Marshall -- formed a new group: Alter Bridge, whose sound, as showcased on its debut "One Day Remains," is a bit more aggressive than Creed's.
"The music is more advanced," said band leader Tremonti, who's calling from a tour stop in Indiana. "We pushed ourselves very hard and worked around the clock writing songs. As a guitar player, I got to push out and do more solos and stretch more."
Slow success
Alter Bridge hasn't enjoyed the immediate success that Creed experienced 10 years ago. "One Day Remains," which came out in August, hasn't exactly set the charts on fire. And critical reception of the record has been lukewarm at best as the group's overall sound retains some prominent Creed-like characteristics. Tremonti's showy guitar riffs, for instance, burn through the songs. And the anthem-like, radio-friendly choruses that made those Creed hits so memorable are all over the debut.
"We wanted to have songs that made melodic sense but were still fun to play night after night, still powerful," said Tremonti, who is based in Orlando, Fla.
There is one strong difference between the two groups: Alter Bridge's lead singer, former Mayfield Four front Myles Kennedy, is a better vocalist than Scott Stapp, Creed's lead vocalist, who could be nauseatingly melodramatic at times. Kennedy's forcible style matches the energetic music. Lyrically, however, Alter Bridge sticks to similar spiritual messages found in many Creed hits. Check out this line from the album's title track: "And as your will is bent and broken/And every vision has been cast into the wind/As your courage crashes down before your eyes/Don't lay down and die ..."
"Some critics think we're everything they hated about Creed," Tremonti says. "But we have to release those songs with the big choruses that are very Creed-like to get on the radio. It's hard to be completely different because I was so involved with those Creed songs."
Singing in shadows
Escaping the long shadow of the old band hasn't been easy, especially since Alter Bridge's music isn't drastically different from what catapulted Creed to multi-platinum sales. But the slightly more aggressive edge of Alter Bridge's sound is steadily attracting new fans.
"We're actually just doing the grass roots things: playing smaller clubs and venues," Tremonti said. "We got a lot of fans who think Alter Bridge is far better. And we got a lot of fans who weren't Creed fans."
Beyond the critical indifference to Alter Bridge's sound and the slow album sales, Tremonti and the band feel freer and more excited about making music. Toward the end of Creed's reign on the pop charts, writing and recording music had become too laborious.
"You couldn't get everybody in the same room toward the end of Creed," Tremonti said. "The passion is there with Alter Bridge. It's starting over again. And it feels great."