Coming from the crumbled ashes of Creed, Alter Bridge took mainstream rock by storm in 2004 with songs like “Metalingus,” “Broken Wings,” and “Open Your Eyes.” Since then, they’ve put out one album every three years, keeping their releases pretty consistent, which is a good quality to have in a band. 2007’s Blackbird released to critical acclaim, taking the band further away from the stigma that they’re the same as Creed. Throughout their career, the band has come further into their own sound. AB III (2010) found the band experimenting with song structure, different musical styles, and having lead guitarist (Mark Tremonti) on vocals. Their magnum opus, Fortress (2013), featured the band’s strongest songs one right after the other, collecting every great aspect of the band into a single record. But, the band has not been without missteps; 2016’s The Last Hero was a record of clear intention that unfortunately fell flat with the songwriting. While it had some interesting and unique songs, a few others ended up sounding generic. On their latest album, Walk the Sky, the band continues to bore with bland songwriting and a safe, radio-friendly sound; however, there is still good to be found in this mixed bag of an album.
Stretching themselves too thin
In a recent interview with Guitar Bonedo, lead vocalists Myles Kennedy and Tremonti both discuss how they wrote separately for the process of Walk the Sky, which is not how they usually write. Unfortunately, this change really shows throughout the album, and not in a good way. Alter Bridge usually knows how to grab an audience and suck them in throughout the whole album (see Fortress); however, on this record, the songwriting is incredibly bland, the instrumentals are sometimes lackluster, and the goal of experimentation falls flat. During the writing process for this record, Kennedy was working on this album, his solo album, and a tour with Slash while Tremonti was busy with his own solo album and a tour with his band, Tremonti. The members of the group have certainly been keeping themselves busy, and it can be heard in their songs, which sound as if they weren’t really trying, due to their schedules. Most of the songs feel like bland radio-friendly hits, like “Take the Crown,” “Godspeed,” and “Wouldn’t You Rather,” while others feel like complete B-Sides of their last album, like “Native Son” and “Tear Us Apart.” The quality of the album suffered because of how thin the band’s members stretched themselves.
Slogs for songs
The singles for this album weren’t good at all—minus a few—and became repetitive right away. The safe, radio-friendly sound had my eyes rolling by the first chorus. A majority of the songs follow the simple verse-chorus-verse structure, which is fine until it quickly gets repetitive. This repetitive nature can be found immediately on “Pay No Mind,” a forgettable track that tries and fails to be experimental. The song features out of place synthesizers that are present just to add more layers to the already bloated production. The synths on this track and others have no real purpose and add nothing to the songs. “Tear Us Apart” is a perfectly listenable ballad but doesn’t add anything interesting to the album besides nice vocal performances. “Godspeed” is another ballad that falls flat due to lackluster lyrics and boring instrumentals; it’s typical for Alter Bridge to have ballads, but this one was extremely by the numbers.
Experimentation that works
Despite it all, not all of this album falls flat. “Dying Light” was the fifth single to be released from the album, and it is easily the best. The synths and orchestration flow well with the bending guitar notes and soaring vocals. “Clear Horizon” is another track that doesn’t sound like the rest. The chorus features staggered chords and reverbed notes that hit hard. It’s a driving song that makes for a nice change of pace in the album. “Forever Falling” features one of the biggest musical teases in their discography: a soft guitar passage followed by a heavy riff. Tremonti takes the lead on this track, singing one of his most interesting melodies, making for a very fulfilling song. “The Bitter End,” while very generic, features a chorus so incredible that it’s hard not to find yourself smiling and singing along to. Finally, “Walking on the Sky” is the most unique song here, setting the tone with layers of guitar and synths. This song is unlike anything Alter Bridge has made before. While still structured as verse-chorus-verse, the sheer variety of sounds here makes that impossible to tell. The chorus is full of heavy riffs and more soaring vocals from Kennedy. Everything falls right into place with these tracks, making the back half of the album much more enjoyable than the front.
Walking on the Sky
Recommended if you like:
The mainstream rock genre
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