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Album review: Alter Bridge – The Last Hero

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★★★★★

Whenever Alter Bridge drops a new album, it is undoubtedly an event.

Alter Bridge – The Last Hero

The band have entered the rhythm of releasing a record every three years without fail, and with a fanbase as purely dedicated and rabid as theirs, it’s become a tradition that loyalists all over the world look forward to constantly.

So, after unleashing the best album of their career to date with Fortress (2013), the pressure really is at an all-time high for Alter Bridge and their upcoming fifth release, The Last Hero, to soar to success.

But in many ways, this album does exactly what any follow-up should do; it signals a continued musical evolution on the part of Alter Bridge.

When it first came out, Fortress felt like the amalgamation of every Alter Bridge record that came before; it had the melody of the radio-friendly One Day Remains (2004), the ambition of Blackbird (2007) and the dark, melancholic edge of AB III (2010).

The Last Hero takes these contrasting tones and explores them all even further, and in this regard is truly Fortress version 2.0.

The new record storms out of the gate with ‘Show Me a Leader’, ‘The Writing on the Wall’ and ‘The Other Side’, all of three of which are anarchic, fast rockers, marking Alter Bridge’s first ever use of seven-string guitars. And with the blistering riffs that screech out of the axes of the duelling Myles Kennedy and Mark Tremonti, that fact clearly shows.

And it isn’t just the music that’s heavier; the lyrics too seem much more aggressive. On ‘The Other Side’, lead singer Kennedy declares in the chorus “If you believe yours is the only way / Then you’re a fool who needs to die”, while ‘The Writing on the Wall’ addresses the front-man’s anger at those that deny the existence of global warming.

But the harmonies and melodies from Myles and back-up vocalist Tremonti ensure that The Last Hero still rings with the sound of old Alter Bridge. The clean vocals on this record soar higher than ever before, the driven and emotive voices counter-balancing this album’s heavy instrumentation to avoid the band becoming alienating to fans that may not enjoy the heavier end of the rock spectrum.

‘My Champion’ and ‘Poison in Your Veins’ form much lighter cuts after The Last Hero’s darker and lightning fast opening, especially the former, which is endlessly uplifting in both its lyrics and delivery as a whole. In that regard, the slightly more powerful ‘Poison in Your Veins’ feels like a middle ground once it comes about, bridging The Last Hero’s first three tracks with the positive ‘My Champion’.

‘Cradle to the Grave’ resurrects the heaviness in full force as it opens, but soon transforms into a soft, rhythmic verse, highlighting the vocal range of Kennedy as he also masters a more downbeat delivery. As it transitions into a hard-rocking yet still emotional chorus, this easily becomes the best thing that The Last Hero has offered so far.

‘Losing Patience’ is another melodic track that feels reminiscent of Alter Bridge’s Blackbird era, before the lengthier ‘This Side of Fate’ returns to the structure of ‘Cradle to the Grave’. The track creates an internal hard–soft dynamic, but it never hits the emotional power of ‘Cradle…’, not managing to get quite as heavy as that song did. Thus, even though ‘This Side of Fate’ is still an enjoyable song and well-written (like everything on this album), the contrast feels a little less impressive this time around.

‘You Will Be Remembered’ features The Last Hero’s first use of acoustic guitars, and the track slowly builds and builds until it becomes an empowering flurry of mid-paced hard rock. Then ‘Crows on a Wire’ pounds its way to life with a guttural, instrumental roar that feels more akin to a death metal song.

‘Crows…’ is short, it’s to-the-point and it proves to be an unrelenting slice of brilliant musical anger mixed with clean choruses. The extreme metal influences of Mark Tremonti present themselves front and centre here, but they still somehow blend effortlessly with the blues/jazz-inspired edge that is a signature of Myles Kennedy’s song-writing.

‘Twilight’’s best moments come in its last minute, as the post-guitar solo riff of its bridge succeeds in melting the faces of all within the vicinity. Aside from that, with this cut, it’s pretty much business as usual.

‘Island of Fools’ and The Last Hero’s title track close this powerhouse of a record, with the former stunning primarily with its unrivalled harmonies and impassioned wails from Kennedy. ‘The Last Hero’ ends the album on unbelievably strong footing, feeling like the quintessential Alter Bridge track as it uses seven minutes to display all the traits of the record that came before it. It is easy to understand why ‘The Last Hero’ is this album’s title track, as it really is a fitting summary, a microcosm of all the tones and emotions that Alter Bridge weave through over the course of this 67-minute trailblazer.

And as ‘The Last Hero’ – both the track and its parent record – halts with one last, swift burst of rock n’ roll passion, the sudden quietness that embeds itself into the listener’s ear afterwards is undoubtedly a stunned silence.

How does one even begin describing the journey that The Last Hero takes fans on? This record is pissed off, it’s introspective, it’s powerful, it’s sombre, it’s slow-building, it’s heavy, it’s melodic, it’s harmonious, it’s… well, it’s Alter Bridge.

And that should be enough in and of itself.

The Last Hero will be available physically and digitally via Napalm Records on 7th October.

Check out our interview with Alter Bridge’s lead guitarist, Mark Tremonti, here.

Read more about Alter Bridge and their Fortress album in our “Yet another 10 metal albums anyone can love” list.




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