Other highlights include Cry of Achilles, whose soaring chorus becomes even more elating than usual; the extra-epic feeling added to End is Here by the string accompaniment’s mirroring of the guitar riff; Lover, which builds to an even more powerful climax; and This Side of Fate, whose atypical structure probably lends itself best out of all Alter Bridge’s tracks for a blending of hard rock and classical - the track’s dramatic ups and downs, frontman Myles Kennedy’s powerful vocals and the orchestral backing combine to make something that seems almost like a heavy metal opera. The key theme here is that the orchestra brings out the best of these tracks and then amplifies it; this is Alter Bridge, but more.
Admittedly, the orchestra adds more to some tracks than others, feeling in several tracks more like a nice extra than something genuinely transformative. The lack of compromise in Alter Bridge’s heavy sound is a double-edged sword; whilst they retain their signature tone, it can sometimes overpower the orchestra somewhat.
The major exception to this is Wonderful Life/Watch Over You. Stripping back two of the band’s most soulful ballads, the Parallax takes a more central presence in this medley, mixing wonderfully with Kennedy’s emotional, powerful vocals. Here the unique dimension added by the orchestra is realised to its fullest, making it the standout track in the set.
Overall, Live at the Royal Albert Hall is a stunning display of the band’s usual musical prowess given a new and unique edge. Alter Bridge have long had a reputation for their extremely polished live performances, and even putting aside everything that the Parallax Orchestra brings to the table, their performance here is every bit as good as longtime fans will have come to expect. The fact that it’s all enhanced by an entirely new orchestral dimension makes it even more of a triumph, proving that 14 years and five studio albums in, Alter Bridge still have what it takes to excite and surprise in equal measure.
Rating – 5/5