Review: Altered Sky – Without Wonderland

I have been keeping my beady little eye on Altered Sky since they popped onto my radar earlier this year. Ever since I caught them live at their hometown show in the Glasgow Garage I stood to attention and started to pay good heed to this bunch of young wannabes. Sometimes you spot something that you just cannot put your finger on, be it the camaraderie of a band that genuinely enjoy each other’s company, or the different beast they turn into on a stage, it’s hard to say, but that star factor was there in abundance.
Now I am going to go out on a limb here and proclaim to one and all that 2016 is going to be massive for this band, and it starts right here with Without Wonderland, the band’s debut full length release. The guys and gals have been desperate for this to get out there, such is their confidence in their own ability, and the standard of the tracks. They did, of course, do a stripped back, acoustic tour of the album, in its entirety, which we covered in depth, but it is a different animal altogether plugged in and rocking.
I enjoyed the acoustic sessions, but yearned to hear the full versions blasting out of my speakers, so you can imagine my delight when, out of the blue, I received the download (to which I can confirm has not stopped playing since). It was all I had anticipated, and then some. When you encounter a band that owns a stage like Altered Sky do, there can be concerns that it might not translate to disc, but that thought melted with the opening bars of ‘This War Is Mine’. This is a cracking song to kick off proceedings… upbeat, fun, well-paced, and with a great chorus……welcome back Altered Sky, I missed you. ‘Stupid In The Dark’ has a kind of wicked nursery rhyme start, but settles into a cracking slice of Pop/Punk brilliance. I can’t say I have ever felt stupid in the dark, except when I kick the corner of the bed, but the lyrics touch on why we should.
 
Next is ‘Apple Tree’, which has a great punk feel, but made for the here and now. A definite radio hit, and already well known to most fans. ‘Bury It All’ is also a fan favourite already, considering it has been out there for a while, and the earlier tour this year was based around this. It has great guitar work from the boys, a solid backbeat from Amy and the wonderful, excitable, and unpredictable pitches from Ana. This leads us to ‘Live For It’, and this band is definitely doing that. They live, breathe, and consume, as the animal that is Altered Sky, and have a real vision for what they want. This song gives you a small glimpse of the diversity they have as a band. This is a far rockier, heavier number. Amy is really going for it on the drums here, as well as adding some nice vocal tones as a reflection to Ana.
 
‘Livewire’ has to be about Ana on stage. If you haven’t seen her live, you don’t know what you are missing. Think of a Tasmanian devil with a good wardrobe. She dances, she pogoes, she darts here and there. You get tired just watching her, and this song reflects that. It has an ever-moving tempo, but for the most part it is right in your face, with a full-frontal eardrum attack.
 
With ‘Songbird’, we get it slowed down slightly for full effect, and we get to focus on the band as a whole. They complement each other perfectly, and we get to see the songwriting ability at its best. You can’t take it away from these guys, they write some stunning tunes. ‘Imagine Adventure’ is on another level altogether. It is just a beautiful song. The piano is atmospheric, and the vocals, sublime. Ana is on top form here. You hear her range, feel the story, as if it is a musical tapestry, woven together with love. To me, this screams out as a movie soundtrack, and if I was the band’s PR or manager, I would seriously be looking at this area to market it (are you listening Lisa/Jayy?).
‘Waves’ starts with the same vibe as the previous track, but it doesn’t take long to kick into that Altered Sky rumble. Yes guys, you really are getting your own sound here, how cool is that? And sadly, that brings us to the last track ‘White Witch’, which is based around Narnia but adapted into a personal viewpoint. What a track to finish on though. We get the staccato drumbeat, and Richard and Ross are on fire. The tempo twins kick it for all they are worth.
 
The live acoustic set of this album in no way prepared me for how good this is ‘rocked out’. It is an excellent release, and makes me so proud to know they are one of my own… fellow Scots, for whom the journey is just beginning. They hold the key to the door with ‘Without Wonderland’ all they have to do now is turn it, open the door, and step right through.
I reckon the days of small clubs could be well behind them soon, and all I can do is watch and smile, as I see these youngsters, full of energy and promise, take the world by storm. Way to go guys, you deserve it, but can I ask one thing? The last musical phenomenon that was Scottish and took the world by storm had really shocking dress sense. Please promise me there will be no 3/4 length trousers and tartan, as much as it would make my day slagging off the 3 Rs (Richard, Ross and Ryan). I just could not take it.
[caption id="attachment_5902" align="aligncenter" width="571"] Altered Sky[/caption]
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