Alter Bridge – ‘Walk The Sky’

By Fiachra Johnston

Despite being labelled ‘Creed Killers’ by fans, and enduring their share of record label woes, Alter Bridge have carved out a neat little corner of alt-rock for themselves. Through an impressive back catalogue of albums, alongside the high-calibre performances of guitarist Mark Tremonti and vocalist Myles Kennedy, they cemented themselves as a staple of the genre. Six albums in and the Florida-based quartet, who have held the same lineup for fifteen years, haven’t quite lost their step just yet. 2013’s ‘Fortress’ was a marvellous record, and while 2016’s ‘The Last Hero’ may not have been at the top of everyone’s end-of-year list, it was the first album since their debut to break into the top ten of the Billboard 200. ‘Walk The Sky’ follows on in solid form: it’s an explosive album featuring some of the best performances of the band yet, but with a daunting runtime that can sometimes leave you more exhausted than entertained.

Right from the get go, the energy this album gives off is staggering. Building up through ‘One Life’ into ‘Wouldn’t You Rather’ and ‘In The Deep’, it’s clear the band haven’t missed a step since their last album, delivering powerful, melodic rock that feels ripped from the mid-2000s without feeling stale or derivative. One thing Alter Bridge are fantastic at is keeping a frenetic pace going without letting the listener’s attention dwindle, but unusually, they fall a little short here. At fourteen tracks, some of the steam gets lost closer to the end. ‘Walk the Sky’ is a deliciously unrelenting album, but that can be as much a hindrance as a help, as the album’s length – with few breaks – makes for an exhausting experience at times. Tracks like ‘Forever Falling’ and ‘Clear Horizons’, which have some wonderful vocal lines by Kennedy, are much more enjoyable on their own rather than as the tenth and eleventh tracks of a fourteen-track record.

Although it’s somewhat of a slog, it’s not an uninteresting one. Mark Tremonti, possibly one of the most underrated guitarists out there, has outdone himself on this album, with biting guitars mixed in with the most subtle synth sampling in songs like ‘Walking On The Sky’, ‘Indoctrination’, and ‘The Bitter End’, the album’s midway points. They’re just subtle enough that they don’t disrupt Alter Bridge’s classic sound and turn it into electro-rock, but they’re still present enough to make for some unique, softer backing to the intensity of the guitars brought to each track.

So too do bassist Brian Marshall and drummer Scott Philips contribute to this intensity, through pavement-cracking bass and drum lines. Both tend to get lost in the shuffle when mentioning the talent of the band, but their contributions should be noted here as they prove themselves to be the backbone of the group. This is a band that know their own sound inside and out, that are able to work to their own strengths, and their stable lineup means every member gels with the others like a perfectly-fitting jigsaw puzzle. It does leave the album sounding a bit repetitive at times, both in itself and in relation to older works, but if you’d enjoyed their signature sound in the past, then there’s plenty to enjoy here.

‘Walk The Sky is a solid, if a little forgetful, album. It’s nothing outside the band’s comfort zone, but there’s enough new here to satisfy those hoping for a new spin on an old sound. At just over sixty minutes it’s a commitment for new fans if they choose this to be their first experience with Alter Bridge, but for someone looking for an aggressive hard rock album with a hint of throwback to it, it’s not going to disappoint.

FIACHRA JOHNSTON

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