Bon Jovi are in a somewhat unique situation with the release of their thirteenth studio album, ‘Burning Bridges.’ For the first time in the entire history of the band, dedicated listeners find themselves staring down a Bon Jovi record that doesn’t feature founding member and guitarist Richie Sambora, despite the fact that Sambora’s name does appear on a writing credit.

Around all of the controversy and mixed emotions surrounding this new installment, what we find on ‘Burning Bridges’ is a more straightforward hard rock album that we have heard from a new Bon Jovi release in some time.

Does some of that credit come from the fact that this material spawns entirely from uncompleted tracks from previous recording sessions? Likely, however that doesn’t take away from the end result found here.

The anthemic refrain to the lead single “We Don’t Run” is impossible for seasoned listeners to escape from and will likely become a live staple during the upcoming Bon Jovi international tour. The same could just as easily be said for the Sambora-penned “Saturday Night Gave Me Sunday Morning,” which is by far the strongest track to be found on ‘Burning Bridges’ and is one of the most formidable Bon Jovi tracks since “I Want to Be Loved” from the ‘Have a Nice Day’ album.

These two songs are evidence that mainman Jon Bon Jovi isn’t too caught up in the departure of Sambora from the lineup. In the case of the former, it seems as though the rock vocalist is energized rather than depressed. “Not afraid of burning bridges/ Because I know they’re gonna light my way,” Jon snarls above an unusually aggressive chord progression.

Outside of the heartland rock themes of “I’m Your Man” and the title track “Burning Bridges,” we come across a number of laidback, suspenseful selections which still keep the momentum heading forward. Take for example the opening number “A Teardrop to the Sea,” whose melancholic overtones is propelled by echoing vocal melodies and flickering hints of distortion.

“Blind Love” is a romanticized piano ballad where Jon Bon Jovi stands front and center, not unlike the vast majority of the frequently disappointing 2013 release ‘What About Now.’ The main difference here is that there appears to be an additional element in Jon’s vocal performance which actually compels the listener to take interest in a love gone wrong.

‘Burning Bridges’ is certainly a welcome upgrade from the overt soft rock experience that is ‘What About Now.’ While there is still the fair share of contemporary rock pieces best suited for the country campfire ala “Who Would You Die For” and “Life is Beautiful,” there are frankly more worthwhile moments than subpar ones to be found throughout.

The compilation of rehashed material found on ‘Burning Bridges’ has been described by the band as a “fan album,” otherwise explained as a new release for fans to hold on to as Bon Jovi prepares their first studio album of original material with their current lineup. Although the origins of the album’s most notable tracks might have some fans questioning the potential of the next release, there is still enough quality compositions on ‘Burning Bridges’ to keep Bon Jovi fans holding on.