Recorded at London’s cavernous venue on 24 November 2016 on The Last Hero tour, the imaginatively titled Live At The O2 Arena captures Alter Bridge in one of their biggest gigs to date. It’s a lengthy record, which opens as Alter Bridge usually do at break neck speed with The Writing On The Wall and Come To Life, massive chunky riffs supporting Myles Kennedy’s soaring vocal range. Buoyed by his recent solo work, guitarist Mark Tremonti is in imperious form, slicing the air with solo after solo.
It’s track three where the band really hit their stride though, with a bone shatteringly heavy Addicted To Pain and it’s here that you get the sense of why this band are likely to be the next Download headliners. A massive rhythm section courtesy of Brian Marshall and Scott Phillips batters like artillery. The pace dies somewhat with Ghost Of Days Gone By but ramps back up with the blistering Cry Of Achilles, the audience by now in full clap along mode at the start. There is no doubting Kennedy is one of rock’s most impressive front men, his voice crystal clear albeit with that little bit of saccharine covering, encouraging the crowd to join in on the chorus.
I’ve seen Alter Bridge several times, and whilst I missed this tour when it rolled into Cardiff, I’ve always enjoyed them although their sets do tend to dip a little in the middle as their catalogue can become too similar in places. It happens again on this release, with 19 tracks ambitious for a band whose sound can be one dimensional, especially having followed the might of Gojira who by all reports blew everyone else off the tour each night.
With a decent smattering from The Last Hero scattered through the set, Crows On A Wire, is one of the picks from that release before the obligatory acoustic Watch Over You at least allows for time to get to the toilet or the bar. Isolation warms everyone for THE Alter Bridge song, the incredible Blackbird, a song I never tire of listening to. The harder edge remains with Metalingus and at that point I’d have been happy to head for the exit. However, value for money is always high on the list with Alter Bridge and the show goes on and on. I wasn’t keen on Show Me A Leader when it was first released with that weird pause in the chorus, but it works a treat in the live arena with a snorting pace driving it forward and allowing Tremonti to flex his muscles.
Rise Today closes the set to massive applause before the double encore concludes with My Champion before a quite abrupt edit ends the show. Live at the O2 Arena captures everything that is good about Alter Bridge; their ferocity at times is stunning. It also demonstrates the balance that the band use with some of their more radio friendly hard rock. At 102 minutes, it’s the full event; probably about 20 minutes too long for me. 8/10
Mausoleum Gate: Into A Dark Divinity (Cruz Del Sur Music)
This is the second album from Finnish outfit Mausoleum Gate and it’s all aboard the 1970s psychedelia train. Six tracks, over 40 minutes of music and a meandering Hammond soaked guitar led ten-minute opener in Condemned To Darkness. It’s almost Baroque in places with the haunting vocals of VP Varpula mesmerising. The contrast with the short crazy ride on Burn The Witches At Dawn is immediately noticeable, with another change into the ominous Apophis following hard on the heels. This band unsurprisingly list Sabbath, Purple and Rainbow in their influences but there’s more than a touch of Black Widow and The Groundhogs as well. The Deep Purple sound kicks in during the impressive Horns and to be honest, the more this album went on, the more I began to dig it. The underlying groove surges through it and their honest devotion to a genre which is rarely heard these days is to be commended. The majestic title track closes the record, all 10:38 of it. I can’t say it’s fantastic, but there is something about this album that really draws you in and refuses to release you until the final notes have expired. 8/10
Wild Rocket: Dissociation Mechanics (Art For Blind)
I’m partial to rocket. Hardy, reliable and with a delightful peppery taste. If planted right, it will last for months and provide a staple for many a side dish or salad. I'm also quite partial to Wild Rocket, possibly the only space rock band from Ireland. Dissociation Mechanics is their latest release and it’s as trippy as balls as the saying goes. Fuzzier than a bear’s bollocks after hibernation, the four members who comprise Wild Rocket serve up a journey of epic proportions. Five tracks which total 43 minutes. Yep, it’s a ride which takes you through the cosmos and back again. The 15-minute meander of The Future Echoes contains some of the most sludge heavy riffs this side of Crowbar. I doubt this will float everyone’s boat, or even rocket ship, but if you want to devote an hour to the astral hemispheres then light up, lie back and enjoy. 7/10
Exarsis: New War Order (MDD Records)
Punchy thrash metal from Greece is the order of the day with Exarsis, a five piece who have remarkably released three albums prior to New War Order. It's full of gusto but the King Diamond piercing wail of Nick J Tragakis ruins some decent if unimaginative thrash. The only remaining original member is bassist Chris Poulos, whose thunderous lines link with the powerful hammering of Achilleas Kamzolas. Despite their best efforts this album becomes quite difficult to listen to after a while. Crap thrash is really a struggle. I'd give this the swerve at all costs. 4/10