Alter Bridge has come a long way from being a spinoff of the oft-derided Creed, having in recent years toured and played several household festivals in Europe, made a live album at London’s O2 Arena and shared the stage with the likes of Breaking Benjamin, Volbeat, Gojira, Shinedown and Disturbed. Guitarist Mark Tremonti has released a string of solo records with his band Tremonti, the latest being A Dying Machine, and lead vocalist Myles Kennedy has of course gained recognition as Slash’s right-hand man through his work in Myles Kennedy And The Conspirators.
What’s new with Alter though as far as records go? Just recently, they released the 14-song-long LP Walk The Sky, which Tremonti described as akin to a John Carpenter film with an “…old school synth-wave kind of vibe.” However 1980s electronic music meshes into the mix of a contemporary alternative metal record is anyone’s guess, but stranger things have certainly happened. This is also Alter G-D Bridge, and Tremonti went on to reiterate in the same interview that “We (Alter Bridge) challenge ourselves to not repeat ourselves and find new inspiration to add a different layer to what we do.”
The bare beginnings of the record, on its brief, meditative intro “One Life” certainly bolster this claim to a dynamic approach. “Wouldn’t You Rather”, the first single off the album kicks things up a notch or eleven into a heavy active-rock crunch, a cut perfectly suited for an arena if ever Alter were to change their minds about large venues. “In The Deep” moves towards melodic metal in a glorious four-minute bliss, shifting into the more ethereal “Godspeed” which begins to give credence to Tremonti’s synthwave claims. The atmospheric background synths, along with the well-textured strings add a perfectly complimentary element to Myles Kennedy’s sendoff for whoever it may concern.
“Native Son” circles back to the harmonious sledgehammer approach of “Wouldn’t You Rather”, complete with soaring vocal work on Kennedy’s part and molasses-thick riffing on the part of both him and Tremonti. “Take The Crown” follows in likewise format, displaying thus far their conventional formula getting tiresome and a need for change. “Indoctrination” provides the new wind in the sails as it half-steps along to a more energetic conclusion, moving seamlessly into the powerful “The Bitter End” where staccatoed strings alongside an iron wall of guitar are employed to flawless effect.
“Pay No Mind” is the most John Carpenter-esque Walk The Sky has got thus far: the immediate burst of phased guitar along with the panning, suspenseful synths that open the song up continue on the nostalgic-yet-current path of turning a standard modern rock track into the opening theme of a 1980s action film. Soon as the beginning credits have rolled, there is a brief peaceful reprieve before the gunfire begins on “Forever Falling”, which demonstrates further Alter Bridge’s great ability to harness emotion and intertwine it with a relentless attack on the eardrums. “Clear Horizon” follows likewise along the line of start quiet, end epic and continues on lyrical themes of purpose dating as far back as One Day Remains: “If I died tonight/Would the question still remain/Did I live for what was right/Did I live this life in vain?”
Existential questions aside, had this record not just been a standard Alter Bridge release, it seriously could have been a great soundtrack album for a film, or better yet, a concept album that could morph into a film (Think The Wall, or anything by Fantomas to grasp the idea here). Given that Alter has already tinkered with conceptualism on AB III, the prospect of such a potentially amazing experiment by them in the future isn’t far-fetched.
“Walking On The Sky”, the lyrical inspiration for the album’s title is essentially standard fare by the established metric of said LP, though it does remain impressive by the many dimensions of guitar that Kennedy and Tremonti explore and exploit- acoustic, driven, driven/phased, etc. that paste together a great auditory collage to immerse one’s self in. “Tear Us Apart” scales things back a bit while not totally sacrificing the general mood and energy that has been consistent throughout the record; urging all listening to hold faith and not let the world tear us apart as it certainly threatens to now. The restraint of “Tear” feeds into the closer “Dying Light”, a number that starts strong and becomes bloody mighty over time as a finale for this kind of record should. Alter unleashes everything they have in their curtain call, rounding out a show of formidable force in a record that did not once let up even in a 14-track span.
Numero seis for Alter Bridge is an impeccably strong record that bolsters them as a solid and continually promising act within the worlds of metal and rock. To offer a bit of constructive criticism, 14 tracks may have been a little too much, and occasionally the album has instances of slipping into the formulaic before jumping back out again into something new. With that said, Myles Kennedy and his crew are no slouches and Walk The Sky whole-heartedly shows it. The world can only look forward to more from here, film-concept-album on the horizon or not.
P.S- For any new guitarists reading this, check this out.