‘Live At The O2 Arena + Rarities’ by Alter Bridge


 

Earlier this year, I had the honor to cover one of my favorite bands, Alter Bridge, at a concert they were playing nearby.  When I arrived, the line was wrapped around the block, and that was five minutes after the doors had opened.  And this wasn’t an arena show!  So, I can only imagine how long the lines must have run outside of the O2 Arena in London when the band came to town.  But what occurred outside the arena is not my concern, but rather the events which unfolded inside.  I was given the opportunity to listen to the upcoming three-disc (or “that’s a lot of mp3s!” digital) collection entitled “Live At The O2 Arena + Rarities,” out Sept. 8, and I’m here to give you my minimally biased opinion – minimally, since I am a fan of the band.

Far be it from me to step on anyone’s toes, but I’m going to start with my least favorite part of this release first and work my way up.  And this isn’t “least favorite” in the fanboy-sense of “it just wasn’t long enough!” Rather, there are moments, mainly during some of the heavier tracks, where the production on the guitars comes across rather muddy, or perhaps Mr. Tremonti simply lays into the wah pedal a hair too generously.  This is quite noticeable in “Metalingus,” which was released as one of the promotional singles for this album.  Luckily, however, this is neither a continuous nor frequent issue, and hardly takes anything away from the overall experience.

So let us broach the great and the grand now, shall we?  The meat and potatoes of this collection is the two-disc live release.  For those of you who are die-hard fans, you have probably already pre-ordered this album, or are sure to do so unless I say the most egregious of things.  However, for those of you who have never listened to Alter Bridge and are looking for a pooling of some of their best songs, I’d say this is a great way to jump in.  While most of the tunes come from the newest studio album, The Last Hero, there is a healthy dose of the previous LP, Fortress, and their sophomore release, Blackbird.  The latter even sees the appearance of its title track, weighing in at nine minutes flat and standing out to me as one of the finest moments of the whole collection with its overwhelming emotionality.  Also approaching the top of my list, is Myles Kennedy’s solo guitar rendition of “Watch Over You,” featuring a fully-animated audience taking control of the vocals for a portion of the song.  And after all, audience-participation is the ultimate point of a concert, isn’t it?

“…I had no f*#!ing idea it was going to end up here,” admits Kennedy, in the 30 minute documentary which comes with the Earbook edition (limited to 1000 copies), beautifully put together by Sturge Media in association with Napalm Records.  He is referring, of course, to the band’s exponential growth into an arena act over its 13 year career.  And it’s wonderful to have such a video included, interviewing not only the band, but members of their road crew as well.  From lyrical direction, to guitar masterclasses, to fan meet and greets, it bounds about and does a nice job showcasing the human element behind the culmination of over a decade’s worth of music.

Speaking of culminations, I can’t forget that we’re also treated to a whole album’s worth of rarities.  Perhaps most interesting to hardcore fans will be two songs which have been unreleased up to now, “Cruel Sun” and “Solace,” both of which were recorded during sessions for the debut, One Day Remains.  The other nine tracks have found their way onto special editions of each studio album released thus far, but it’s nice to see them brought together here for those who might have missed them the first time around.  I honestly hadn’t realized that “Zero” and “Home” from ABIII were bonus tracks, as I’ve been wearing that disc out for years and can’t imagine the record without them.  The rest of the tracks are new to me, and it’s been a welcome occasion to get better acquainted with them.

Thinking back to my own live-in-concert Alter Bridge experience, I can’t help but smile as I listen to these songs.  Myles, Mark, Brian Marshall, and Scott Phillips aren’t just “musicians’ musicians” – to quote their drum tech, Shane Hall – they’re also great songwriters.  And the greatness of the songs isn’t simply a melodic twist, a crazy solo, or a wicked bassline (though those certainly help), but how each of these things coalesce with meaningful lyrics which resonate with their fans.  And for them, the live show isn’t about getting smashed and slamming into one another, though mosh pits have their place, but rather it’s a cathartic experience where their own inner demons dissipate with thousands of like-minded individuals, each unique in their struggles, but bonded by the shared love of these pieces.  You may not personally have anything approaching a religious experience when listening to these tracks, but take the time to check out the songs, absorb the lyrics, and perhaps you’ll understand the enjoyment and connection that an entire arena in London shared on Nov. 26, 2016.

 
Pre-order Live At The O2 Arena + Rarities at: iTunes | Amazon | From The Band

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CD Review: ‘Worlds Unknown’ by Walking With Giants

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The hammer strikes down dramatically, ringing deep and continuous. A piano, alone, carries a melody to our hungry ears. Within moments, it is joined by the light caress of cymbals and overdriven guitar. All of this, resinating with orchestral strings, leaves us feeling small among its immensity, but anxious as to what awaits. And thus is the start of Walking With Giant’s third offering, but first full length effort, entitled Worlds Unknown. This January 15 release finds frontman Gary Noon, and his studio team, firing on all cylinders.

For those that haven’t been made privy to that great secret which is Walking With Giants, allow me to spill the beans. This Baltimore-based entity is the brainchild of guitarist and vocalist, Gary Noon. With dreams of playing with his heroes, he reached out to Sevendust’s Clint Lowery, as well as Alter Bridge’s Brian Marshall and Scott Phillips, collectively composing two breathtaking EPs, Walking With Giants and One By One. Though Phillips had scheduling conflicts and was thus unable to perform on the team’s first full length album, Sevendust’s Morgan Rose has taken up the sticks without missing a beat.

 

While Noon and company continue to provide us with a buffet of irresistibly addictive hard rock tracks, the new release is different in that A) it’s longer, and B) it’s buttressed by two halves of the title track. In between the bookends entitled “Worlds Unknown” Parts 1 and 2, we are enveloped in a series of songs that overflow with positive energy! “Broken Truth” and “Back To Life” lift the spirit in tone alone, while hard-hitting powerhouses like “Bound” and “Heavy Hand,” despite dealing with personal struggle, shine through the darkness with words of determination and perseverance. Perhaps the first track that breaks from this mold for Walking With Giants is the tune entitled “Guilty One,” in which Noon struggles with the feeling of being at fault. It takes a strong person to take responsibility for their actions, but the important thing about this song is that though he is made to feel at fault, he never admits defeat. These uplifting lyrics are one of the defining points of Walking With Giants that continue to draw me in time and time again.

By the way, in case it seems that I overlooked it, Worlds Unknown is musically phenomenal. Noon and Lowery join forces once more to construct meatier riffs, larger hooks, and more badass guitar solos than ever before. And from the sheer brutality of “Bound” to the seemingly computerized opening of “The Now,” this album stays fresh. Marshall’s basslines dig in deep and route the direction of Noon and Lowery’s assault, with Rose’s percussive accompaniment fitting in superbly alongside this ensemble. And, my word, the vocal harmonies! Walking With Giants has its own characteristic layer of voices that sail away with the melodic breeze, robust yet soothing to the ear. Worlds Unknown is a stunning new addition to Walking With Giants’ growing catalog, and, to quote “Heavy Hand,” the time has come for the world to see…

 
Watch the “Heavy Hand” music video here!
Buy Worlds Unknown*: From The Band

*Note: Buying the physical copy gets you two bonus acoustic tracks, “Another Life” and “Crashing Down.”

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CD Review: “One By One” by Walking With Giants

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Notes ring off the strings, echoing as if from reverberating bells. Thus is the beginning of Baltimore-based Walking With Giants’ new EP, One By One, set for release on June 21. This promising hard-rock act blew me out of the water last year with its debut, self-titled release. When I heard that a new offering was on the way I immediately contacted singer, songwriter and mastermind, Gary Noon, about the chance to share his musical vision with other like-minded rockers.

Walking With Giants features an all-star cast of musicians. Rejoining Noon once more for his journey is co-writer and guitarist, Sevendust’s Clint Lowery, who continues to produce for the team. Also returning to the fold is Alter Bridge and Creed drummer, Scott ‘Flip’ Phillips. But unlike the debut recording, which found bass duties rotated between Noon and Lowery, we are treated instead with the inclusion of Alter Bridge and Creed bassist, Brian Marshall, who brings a low-end previously unheard.

For those that enjoyed the flavor of the debut EP, you will not be disappointed in the present release. The opening track, “Find Your Way Back,” begins with a feeling of confidence indicative of someone who has already proven his or her worth. Notes ring off the strings, resting atop a powerful, rolling drum beat, courtesy of Flip, that carries the verse into a heightening chorus. If it’s one thing that Walking With Giants has going for it – and it’s not just one thing – it is the amazingly addictive choruses that find their way into each and every song. Noon and Lowery have a knack for writing choruses that catch the ear, but they aren’t slouches on the strings either. The guitar duo have littered the release with hard-hitting riffs and melodies, such as the introductions to “Chasing Light” and “Anything,” the latter housing enough meaty slabs to open up its own butcher shop.

Don’t worry! While there’s plenty of incredible riffage to savor, Noon and crew haven’t forgotten about those of you who long for a sweet respite. “Another Chance” is the somber song with a glimmer of hope that reminds me faintly of the mood found in “Wonderful Life” by Alter Bridge. With its wide-open chords, passionate vocals and swooping solo, it fills the heart with sympathy. I can certainly empathize with Noon, as he sings about trying to keep his mind from racing at the “What if’s” of life and love.

Walking With Giants is well on its way to building a tremendous library of work that is not only well-written, but inspiring as well. Like their debut EP, this latest release shows concern over the darker aspects of life and human character. Yet, there is always an optimistic eye on the horizon, which sees “the darkness fading” as stated in the closing track, “So Far.” This is one of the features that drew me so quickly to the music and has kept me enraptured. One By One is another milestone in this Walking With Giants’ career and one that will hopefully see it gaining some well-earned attention.
 

Buy One By One at: iTunes | Amazon

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