Alter Bridge may well have put together their most brilliant album yet with this sixth studio release.
While they will always have a core following, those outside struggle to look past the legacy of Creed. Today, Alter Bridge are regularly putting out quality releases. Catching them live is a musical revelation as Alter Bridge have a deft knack for dynamics.
That brings us to this latest album, which saw a more collaborative approach while retaining the core songwriting partnerships of guitar virtuoso Mark Tremonti and front man Myles Kennedy. Reportedly, Tremonti used background loops as an initial sonic layer on which to build the tracks. It proved to be a stroke of genius. Again, utilising the skills of producer Michael Baskette brings out the instrumentation and arrangements beautifully, filling in the sonic spectrum with clear knowledge of the band’s musical interplay.
Kicking off with the haunting One Life as an atmospheric introduction, various instrumentation tones come to the surface and lead nicely into the hammering leading single Wouldn’t You Rather, with rhythm section Brian Marshall and Scott Phillips bunkering down in unison as Tremonti rips through droning harmonics and octaves, amongst a swirling sea of riffs. The song builds upon layers, becoming heavier as Kennedy’s soaring, doubled vocals hit sustained notes and lyrically reinforce life choices without being remotely preachy. In the Deep demonstrates Alter Bridge’s well-honed abilities at creating catchy harmony lines and punchy chorus figures that float over crisp production.
There are many album highlights but the borderline pop-rock track Godspeed is probably the most memorable. Starting with piano and synthesiser sounds, big guitar chords add depth but with a flanging effect so it isn’t overpowering to the detriment of vocal delivery, keeping the bouncing groove of the track moving even during an expressive guitar solo as notes ring out over a keyboard wash to then reprise a strong chorus melody. Native Son that benefits greatly from spatial half time parts allowing the drum hits and guitar chords to add extra power to the vocal line, borrowing elements of bombastic 70s Zeppelin stylings.
Take the Crown is tastefully executed, the rhythm section impeccable as the song moves from a fleshed out, big chorus to the subtle musical spice of Eastern musical influences. Tremonti teases with some brief but skilful outro guitar soloing that fades out above the mix of the rest of the band.
The next couple of tracks are something that might be bypassed with today’s digital platform shuffling but as part of the album flow work well. Indoctrination offers a change of pace and some musical tension with signature aspects present, the big chorus technique builds further in the next track, The Bitter End, that segues well into the heavy, synth-infused Pay No Mind. This track is another album highlight as it uses additional harmonising musical layers that effectively flow in and out of the mix within the masterful use of the rock song structure. It isn’t experimental in any true sense but nor is it formulaic.
Forever Falling sees Tremonti taking on lead vocal duties and the guitar line tends to follow the vocals. The chorus is a good hook even as the song gets progressively heavier and also includes some swift guitar soloing. A similar use of heavy riffs swirling between well-arranged rhythm section parts are evident in Clear Horizon, bolstered by Kennedy’s vocal range and unquestionably powerful delivery.
Walking on the Sky takes some sonic adventures with tones but the melodic vocal line maintains direction. The use of keyboards doesn’t take away from the song’s focus but adds an edge and Tremonti’s aggressive guitar soloing gets an airing on this track, adding a metal influenced vibe.
Dying Light works perfectly as a conclusion. Guitar lines follow the vocals as sonic textures move around the core aspects of the track. Kennedy’s delivery is again succinct yet emotive. The spatial dynamics are excellent with a judicious use of bombast where needed as well as knowing when not to play. Tremonti’s soloing parts are brief yet tasteful, branching out within the context of the song.
Walk the Sky is a life-affirming, energetic, wonderfully musically inspiring release. In a perfect world, this should be the release to take Alter Bridge to the level of headlining arenas globally. Flawless from start to finish, hands down, Walk the Sky is the hard rock album of the year by a country mile.
Wouldn’t You Rather
In the Deep
Take the Crown
The Bitter End
Pay No Mind
Walking on the Sky
Tear Us Apart