Alter Bridge – Walk the Sky Album Review

Whew, it’s finally here! Thanks for your patience guys. Florida Hard Rock band Alter Bridge (a.k.a. “Creed Plus Myles Kennedy”) changed it up quite a bit for album number six, and it took me longer than usual to figure out how I felt about it.

I’m glad I took a little extra time, because I couldn’t be more proud of this review. I feel like I covered this record from every possible angle, and whether you agree or disagree, I really hope you find it entertaining! Full review below, thanks for watching!

Alter Bridge’s “Dying Light” Single

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:

 

April 2016 Album Round Up!

April 2016 was an insane month in my life. My final run as a college student, I spent my weekends living out of a suitcase and traveling up and down the East coast to visit friends at their respective schools before real life shows up and steps on our dreams. If I ever become a full-blown alcoholic, I will have April 2016 to blame. But in between binges on Jack Daniels, Xanax, and God knows what else, here are some releases that were the soundtrack to my escape (yep, that was an intentional In Flames reference!).

Weezer (The White Album) – Weezer

I couldn’t think of a better set of tunes to kick off the beginning of Spring. I haven’t heard anything from Weezer in over a decade that I’ve wanted to hear again, but the White Album is excellent. It has this light-hearted bounce to it that’s irresistible. It’s also succinct, not letting any of its ten songs slip through the cracks. Whether Nirvana deserves royalties for the “Lithium”-esque “Summer Elaine and Drunk Dori” is anyone’s guess, but it’s a hell of an album either way. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Gore – Deftones

Quite possibly my album of the year thus far. I’ve never been a Deftones guy, but Gore converted me. It has layers upon layers so it takes a few listens, but if you allow yourself to go along for the ride, you’re in for something special. Chino Moreno’s vocal performance on choruses like “Phantom Bride”, “Prayers/Triangles”, “Xenon”, and “Hearts/Wires” is breathtaking. I’ve especially beat “Phantom Bride” to death. My God. Here is a full review. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Views – Drake

Drizzy’s highly anticipated fourth album fluctuates between mildly underwhelming and utterly cringe-inducing. Views finds the Canadian-born superstar stagnating musically and regressing lyrically. Bars like “got so many chains they call me Chaining Tatum” and “Girl let me rock your body/Justin Timberlake” drag listeners back to 2009 kicking and screaming for the “hashtag rap” era. The crying shame is that the first six tracks are excellent, but things nosedive quickly, save a couple late-album highlights like the Rihanna-assisted “Too Good”. A major letdown. Here is a full review. NOT RECOMMENDED

You’ll Pay For This – Bear Hands

For Brooklyn, NY’s Bear Hands, album number three was a pivotal one. What an oversaturated market these guys are in. They are based in Brooklyn and they play electronic-infused indie Rock. Gonna go out on a limb and say it’s been known to happen. But You’ll Pay For This, while it doesn’t do much to distinguish itself stylistically, distinguishes itself in terms of quality. It’s simply a cut above its peers. And angst-ridden young adults will feel right at home with its lyrical content. Here is a full review. RECOMMENDED

Layers – Royce da 5’9

In early March, Detroit OG Royce da 5’9 dropped “Tabernacle”, the best Hip-Hop single of 2016 thus far, to promote his sixth solo album Layers. It was intensely personal and deeply moving, with stellar storytelling and grade-A production. The opening track of the LP, it’s followed by a set of cuts that, understandably so, don’t quite measure up to it. A majority are enjoyable, while some, like “America”, “Off”, and “Startercoat”, are on the boring side. It’s thoughtfully sequenced, with Royce’s lady problems woven in and out of typical lyrical flexing. But here’s the thing about Royce that fans should understand by now. If you are in the market (as I am) for old school lyricism and for flows that are more derivative of Nas than Future or Lil’ Wayne, the reliable Nickel Nine will deliver. And if you’re not, move along because there’s nothing here for you. Simple as that. RECOMMENDED

Dust – Tremonti

This is the strangest record of the month for me. NOT musically mind you – it’s actually pretty straightforward Metal-tinged Hard Rock. But given that Dust is simply “part 2” of the same recording sessions that produced last year’s Cauterize – an album I didn’t hate but was pretty lukewarm on – I am SHOCKED at how much better it is! Still trying to wrap my head around that. Here is a full review. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Book of Shadows II – Zakk Wylde

20 years after Zakk Wylde’s mellow cult classic Book of Shadows, we’re blessed with part two. Better late than never! Like its predecessor, Book of Shadows II is best enjoyed on an overcast, hungover Sunday or, once October rolls around, a brisk Fall afternoon with some foliage. It’s beautifully gloomy, and Wylde’s gravelly vocals make you momentarily forget that he’s actually from Jersey and not a good ol’ boy belting these tunes out across his cattle farm. And even though he’s unplugged for most of it, he does plug in for RIPPING electric guitar solos on tracks like “Lay Me Down” and “Lost Prayer”. Like Mr. Wylde himself, the track list is a bit bloated, but that’s a minor complaint. RECOMMENDED

Generation Doom – Otep

Otep’s Generation Doom combines the lyrical imagination of Five Finger Death Punch with the corny delivery of In This Moment’s latest dud, sprinkling in some generic Nu Metal-isms for good measure. There are even some painful rapped passages, like in the track “Down”. We get it, Otep. You’re not a fan of conformity. You’re not a fan of the fact that America fights wars. And you appear to be upset about it. But for the love of God, please learn to communicate it in a compelling manner. I suppose Generation Doom is heavy, and I like heavy. But “heavy” is literally all it has going for it. NOT RECOMMENDED

A Sailor’s Guide to Earth – Sturgill Simpson

This is Sturgill Simpson’s third LP and follow-up to the acclaimed Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. Like his sophomore triumph before it, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth completely transcends Country (or what has loosely become defined as “country” in the wake of the horrific Pop-Country explosion of the last half-decade plus). Simpson is unbounded in his use of horn sections, string arrangements, and anything in between on highlights like “Breakers Roar”, “Keep It Between the Lines”, and “All Around You”. I do have a gripe with the cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom”: he made it his own, but I’m not sure the hard-hitting, singular sound of Nirvana’s debut should be tampered with in this fashion. Still, I’ve found a lot to enjoy here. I suppose “alt-country” is the categorical term, but what the hell do I know? Country is a genre I casually dip my toes into every now and then. And I’m quite glad I chose to get my feet wet with A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. RECOMMENDED