Review by Shayne McGowan
Alter Bridge - Walk the Sky
I’m sorry to say that I purposefully ignored Alter Bridge when they first released One Day Remains, back in 2004. I continued to ignore them through 2007’s Blackbird. There
is no reason for that, except that I just didn’t have time for another new band. When AB III was released in 2010, I finally took a little notice, but when Fortress reared it’s head in
2013, I was hooked. My new found appreciation of Alter Bridge forced me to explore the back catalogue, and it continued into 2016’s The Last Hero record. Now, as the band
release their fifth full length album, Walk the Sky, I can safely consider myself a big fan.
Seeing the band live on their tours for both Fortress and The Last Hero definitely helped cement that fact. They are tremendous live!
Walk the Sky did not grab me as instantly as Fortress, but after a handful of listens, it is an intriguing and layered record, with as much going on beneath the surface, as there is at its fore. Mark Tremonti is a gifted and underrated guitarist, and when coupled with the lead vocals and rhythm guitar from Myles Kennedy, as well as the exceptional rhythm section of Brian Marshall on bass and Scott Phillips on drums, Alter Bridge are a very effective band, with a comprehensive understanding of structure and timing. Together, they are a gifted unit.
Walk the Sky opens with the discordant notes of One Life. It’s a subtle beginning, and a great lead in to Wouldn’t You Rather, which fires us up with a huge chunky riff. This is what Alter Bridge is all about - great guitar work, driving rhythms, intelligent lyrics and catchy sing along choruses.
Into The Deep begins with a jangly continuous riff, leading into Tremonti ripping out a shredding solo, before settling down to become a melodic number, albeit - still very rocking, centred around Kennedy’s vocals. Godspeed is catchy and once again, very much a vocal track. This one has mainstream appeal in spades, and should prove to be a big single for the band.
Native Son starts slow, but soon delivers a wall of sound that connects with me straight away. Brilliant drumming, stunning guitar work... the entire track is overflowing with catchy hooks, and of course, Myles Kennedy is one of the best vocalists of this generation, so there’s that. This is an instant classic AB track, and the absolute high water mark of Walk the Sky for me.
Beginning in a similar way to other tracks, Take the Crown, again features all the hallmarks of Alter Bridges signature sound. Soaring vocals, guitars that deliver hook laden passages, bombastic rhythms and lyrics that are intelligent and often thought provoking. It’s truly great stuff.
Indoctrination, on the other hand, is a little outside of the AB box. As it opens, we have a sinister sounding riff, with Kennedy singing in a much lower register. The guitars are crisp, and at times have a bit of middle eastern flavour to them. Very interesting within the AB pantheon.
The Bitter End is another surefire radio hit for the band, with sweeping melodies and another vocal performance that soars. Pay No Mind is another of my highlights from Walk the Sky - it’s infectious and easy to engage with. This was released as the second of five singles that emerged prior to the albums release, and a very logical selection, as far as I’m concerned.
Forever Falling lulls us into believing we are getting a gentle acoustic track, but very quickly delivers chugging riffs under a Tremonti lead vocal in the verses, with Kennedy taking the backseat here. Tremonti is a phenomenal vocalist in his own right, and showcases that in spectacular fashion here.
Clear Horizon is epic and ambitious, not in length, just in the overall feel of the track. It seems like Alter Bridge really challenged themselves on this track, possibly after working with orchestral arrangements for 2018’s live performances with The Parralax Orchestra, while the semi - title track, Walking on the Sky, features a similar feeling of the band trying to push new boundaries, and explore new elements. I like both tracks quite a bit, and if the band were to continuing exploring this style, I’d be very interested to hear where they can take it.
As we approach the tail end of the album, Tear Us Apart is quite honestly, very reminiscent of the bands (minus Kennedy) time as Creed. It’s by no means a bad track, I just can’t help but hearing a very Creed flavour. I have to say this too - I don’t hate Creed, I think their Weathered album was awesome.
Closing out the album, after nearly an hour of listening, is Dying Light. A near six minute number, that serves to once again, demonstrate not only Myles Kennedy’s excellent vocal range, but put a spotlight on the band as a whole, not only in the musicianship department, but also the timing and structuring of the song. It’s a great album closer.
Walk the Sky clocks in at an hour in length, which is long, particularly for an album that commands your full attention, but it never feels like a long record, always managing to keep me hooked, and definitely held my interest for the duration.
I have a feeling this will appear in my top 10 albums of 2019 list next month.