Great bands, like the best leaders, know when to take their opportunities when they come. The outstanding live act Alter Bridge, for example, were looking forward to growing their reputation and fanbase with an extensive tour promoting their Walk The Sky album when the global pandemic shut down their tour; but they took advantage of the live material they had recorded to help produce this seven-track EP, Walk The Sky 2.0 (6 November 2020; Napalm Records).
A deadly virus that turns the world upside down should provide a lyrical goldmine for heavy bands, and not just those at the death metal extreme. And, again, Alter Bridge have seized this moment by writing and producing what is set to be a classic new track, Last Rites, which is the only new studio cut on the album. If you like the sound of a heavily distorted guitar, then guitarist Mark Tremonti serves that up in spades, and if you enjoy that contrasting with powerful and melodic vocals, then you’ll find singer Myles Kennedy scaling similar sublime heights. The blend of the two recalls for me Alice in Chains’ best work, as Kennedy blasts out the ominous message: “there’ll be no last rites, the future’s all but set in stone… so say goodbye to the only way of life you’ve ever known.”
Tremonti and Kennedy are superbly supported by drummer Scott ‘Flip’ Phillips and bassist Brian Marshall in the six live tracks that follow. Alter Bridge are a super-tight outfit and that shines through on the production of this EP, in which each instrument is crystal clear.
Wouldn’t You Rather kicks off the live section with some crisp guitar work by Tremonti, who can be seen playing his black signature PRS on one live performance. “Sell yourself short and buy a world of pain, Follow your bliss or pay the price, All of these lessons I've learned them so well, There is no gain worth the commerce of self,” intones Kennedy while reflecting on the lessons life has taught him.
Pay No Mind and Godspeed both feature some great atmospheric synth work. These tracks and Dying Light ‘sandwich’ my two favourite tracks on this EP, Native Son and In the Deep, which can both be heard and seen on a live clip (see the video selection below) from their concert in Cologne, Germany, on 26 November 2019.
The sound quality of this particular recording leaves something to be desired, but it shows the quartet dressed in their trademark black trousers and black t-shirts and showcases Tremonti on the latter track playing one of his PRS.
The six minute long ballad Dying Light ballad features a big chorus from Kennedy and appropriately closes the EP.
The North American group Alter Bridge have come a long way since they were referred to as ‘the former members of Creed’ and are now established as one of the biggest rock bands on the planet. Their first few studio albums in particular helped establish their reputation, but it is as a live act when they really show their chops as musicians, and this EP will certainly do nothing but cement that status.