All I Was reveals another side of Mark Tremonti. The Grammy Award-winning guitarist's style remains instantly recognizable. It's nearly impossible to forget his riffs in multi-platinum rock juggernaut Creed or his scorching fretwork with the critically acclaimed, fan favorite Alter Bridge. Having sold over 40 million records worldwide, this is the man behind massive hits like "My Own Prison", “Higher", and "Isolation"—just to name a few. There are a myriad of reasons why Guitar World dubbed him "Guitarist of the Year" three consecutive years in a row, and he ranked as the "fourth greatest heavy metal guitarist ever" in Total Guitar. You might think you know him from all of that, but you haven't heard Tremonti unleashed like this.
Assuming both vocal and six-string duties on his long-awaited solo debut, he thrashes with a fierce intensity that's remarkably heavy and instantly infectious. Flanked by rhythm guitarist Eric Friedman and drummer Garrett Whitlock, Tremonti engages an incendiary metallic assault that's relentless from the first moment until the last, burning down all expectations in its path.
In many ways, Tremonti returned to his roots for All I Was. Growing up on the likes of Pantera and Metallica, heavy metal has always had a very special place in his heart. However, he never had the avenue to truly follow those impulses to the fullest until now.
"From day one in Creed, I'd pull out metal riffs and the guys would remind me that we weren't Slayer," he laughs. "Over the years, our sound got heavier. Then, Alter Bridge became even heavier than Creed. That's my foundation. It's a style that I'm really comfortable with. Now, there are no holds barred. I figured the solo album was my opportunity to get that part of myself out there without losing the sense of melody I've worked so hard to achieve."
That's exactly what he did on All I Was. While Alter Bridge frontman Myles Kennedy was on the road with Slash in early 2011, Tremonti hunkered down in his home studio and began assembling what would become the album. As he continued to rehearse with Friedman and Whitlock, the shredder came into his own as a vocalist. Of course, he'd always sung melodies in both of his other bands, but this was a whole new challenge.
"When you're singing backup, you can't really let loose and put too much character into the vocal line," he reveals. "I spent a lot of time practicing with the guys and rehearsing, and I finally developed the confidence to go in and do this."
In between touring, he collaborated with producer and longtime friend Michael "Elvis" Baskette [Chevelle, Alter Bridge] on recording. Together, they achieved a sound that's powerful and potent. "Whatever he does sounds incredible," he says of Elvis. "I trust him so much at this point. He's very honest when it comes to producing, and he's a phenomenal engineer. He always pushes me." Tremonti also has a long history with Friedman and Whitlock as well, having co-produced their debut album with Submersed. "Garrett and I have a lot in common when it comes to our roots," he elaborates. "Eric is like a little brother to me. We have a great time together. We're all huge fans, and music is our life. We wake up wanting to play and go to sleep wanting to play. We're all on the same page."
You can hear it loud and clear on the album. Songs like "Brains" balance speed metal shredding with anthemic choruses. Tremonti also opened up like never before on the lyrics, dealing with betrayal, isolation and ultimately starting anew.
Groove-driven album opener "Leave It Alone" set the tone for All I Was thematically. He goes on, "It’s about the walls you build up walls over the years and the lessons learned. So, as soon as you get any indication that someone is going to do you wrong, you turn the other way."'
"The Things I've Seen" imagines a similar story, but he tells it via vulnerable vocal delivery, haunting guitar soundscapes, and hypnotic harmonies. The songwriter elaborates, "It really targets two-faced people. When you chase down a dream and are betrayed at the end, that experience completely changes you as a person. You can curl up and become jaded."
With one listen to All I Was, it's clear that hasn't happened to Tremonti though. In fact, the songs brandish a youthful fire that blazes brightly. He urges listeners to stand up and fight with the pummeling thrash of "Wish You Well" and he pleads for a fresh start on "A New Way Out". "The world seems like it's in such a bad place and that track cries out for a better way. There is hope."
As for the title of the album, it's got a deeper meaning for its architect. He divulges, "It's about being a shell of what you used to be. In life, you can start off with a mentality that nobody can hold you back. As you grow up, you work your way through troubles and fight life's battles the best you can. How you come out on the other side is up to you."
In addition, Tremonti's gone independent once again for All I Was. "At first, I was just going to put a couple of tracks online when I had the time. As we got deeper into the album, we realized that we had to get it out there properly and tour it. We're going to give it all we've got."
The record is available via FRET12 Records. FRET12 is the online guitar hub that Tremonti founded with his brother Daniel Tremonti and Tom Stanley in 2008. Further keeping it in the family, his cohort in Creed and Alter Bridge, Brian Marshall, will assume touring bass duties.
Ultimately, the album remains as pure as Tremonti's love for music. "I hope people have fun listening to All I Was and want to see it live," he concludes. "This record is heavier than anything I've done, but it's still a fun record. I hope it makes people want to go out, face the world." Just like he continues too…
All I Was is everything Mark Tremonti is and so much more.
— Rick Florino, April 2012