Honestly, I’ve been getting increasingly worried about this new Alter Bridge record.
The forthcoming Walk the Sky – the band’s sixth LP overall – has now produced five singles from its lengthy tracklist, of which the first four (“Would You Rather”, “In the Deep”, “Take the Crown”, and “Pay No Mind”) I’ve found myself significantly underwhelmed by. So far, these tracks have teased a noticeable departure from the winning formula of 2013’s Fortress and 2016’s The Last Hero in several ways: toned-down aggression, de-emphasized guitar riffs, less vocal breaks, and as guitarist Mark Tremonti hinted at months ago, some experimentation with synthesizers.
As a massive proponent of bands not making the same fucking record over and over again, I’m obligated to applaud Alter Bridge for changing things up. And I’m convinced that Walk the Sky will be one of my most interesting and challenging reviews of 2019 when I do cover it on YouTube. But I simply haven’t enjoyed what I’ve heard so far. This new single “Dying Light”, however, is possibly my favorite of the lot, and manages to dodge several of the critiques I’ve had for the other four tracks.
Most importantly, the band seems to be overemphasizing frontman Myles Kennedy’s vocals, which is resulting in unbalanced songwriting. When you look in the rearview at some of Alter Bridge’s best moments (think “Blackbird”, “Cry of Achilles”, “Come to Life”, “Island of Fools”, etc) they all involve extended instrumental sections that complement Kennedy’s singing by juxtaposing his bright and shiny hooks with their darker and sometimes grittier shadow; songwriting that a Walk the Sky single like “In the Deep” eschews almost entirely . But “Dying Light”, with its moody guitar-and-vocal interplay in the verses, as well as the wonderfully nauseating guitars that groan through the bridge section (3:18 mark), does strike this balance well. Bland and pointless guitar solo aside, it’s got some genuinely unique and memorable instrumental moments, which I’m going to go out on a limb and say is absolutely crucial to Alter Bridge’s music. When they make it all about Myles’ vocals, they start to wade dangerously into “Butt Rock” territory.
But as always, I reserve all judgments for the irreplaceable context of the whole album front-to-back. For all I know, it might all make sense on the 18th, and here’s to hoping that “Dying Light” is somewhat indicative of what “making sense” is gonna sound like.
Walk the Sky is due out October 18th on Napalm Records. Any way you slice it, it’s bound to be one of my most exciting reviews of the year, so be sure to tune in on YouTube! And check out “Dying Light” below: