Mark Tremonti has always been one of the unsung heroes of hard rock guitar, even dating back to his early years a member of the alternative rock force Creed.

Mark has always made the welcome habit of playing to the song, as opposed to presenting his work at the forefront, yet he finds a method that allows him to cater to both ends of the spectrum on the new Tremonti studio album, ‘Cauterize.’

‘Cauterize’ is the sophomore release from Tremonti, as well as the first to feature new member Wolfgang Van Halen.

Even the most occasional of rock advocates would be able to point out the latest addition to the lineup’s Van Halen lineage, however it’s with this record that Wolfgang asserts he’s more than just a pedigree by delivering some of the most concrete heavy metal bass lines of recent memory.

The album doesn’t require any suspenseful introductory orchestration, a characteristic that seems to have become ever-so popular within the genre. The members of Tremonti instead grabs hold of the listener by the fangs with the thrash metal exertion of “Radical Change,” which is highlighted by Mark’s pick-pulverizing chord progressions and the soaring vocal melodies of Van Halen and guitarist Eric Friedman.

Macabre overtones characteristic of early Black Sabbath and Metallica ground the performance as the album transitions into the grooving “Flying Monkeys,” a track which despite the seemingly harebrained reference packs enough punch to land a knockout blow towards otherwise dismissive listeners.

One of the apparent highlights of the album early on is the energetic compilation of introspective lyrics and the aggressive harmony themes found on the title track “Cauterize.” It’s with this number that we come across a rewarding fusion of Tremonti’s post-thrash vocals and his compulsive guitar solos, all of which is rounded out by a reflective blues rock conclusion.

Tremonti remains in control at the helm of this presentation as we continue across the woven landscapes of “Arm Yourself” and the ex post facto “Dark Trip,” which transitions between dimensions of warring heavy metal skies to calm seas of alternative rock elements.

Corybantic natural harmonics surface from the depths of the concrete rhythm section on “Another Heart,” which further constitutes the notion that Mark Tremonti is branching out ever further as a guitar player with this latest offering.

The intensity found throughout is largely maintained by the dense playing of Van Halen, who approaches the bass guitar more like how one would the role of rhythm guitarist. The benefits of this unique standpoint can be found on “Fall Again,” which balances the musical extreminites of a power ballad and a full-fledged rocker.

It comes readily apparent that ‘Cauterize’ was crafted with the intention of having each song integrated with the passion to one-up it’s predecessor, as we find throughout the adrenaline-fueled “Tie the Noose” and the slightly Queen-esque “Providence,” an anthemic final number that boasts twin guitar leads and an increased emphasis on Tremonti’s melody-oriented foundation.

There’s always disinclination in a band when it comes down to following a well-received debut album with a sophomore installment, however Tremonti manages to exceed all expectations with ‘Cauterize.’