It’s been three years and two side projects since Alter Bridge’s Fortress hit the airwaves, but the wait for a new album is finally coming to an end this Friday, October 7th.
The Last Hero, has been percolating over the fires of the current political climate. Its imagery is saturated with 1940’s war-time style propaganda and its sound is held together by a technical cohesiveness that showcases the band’s growth.
It’s interesting to note that, while Alter Bridge didn’t set out to write a concept album, The Last Hero could easily pass for one. Lyrically, it’s very much an album of the times, angry and outspoken without crossing the line into blatant political discourse. Musically, Alter Bridge demonstrates their outstanding progression, no doubt heavily influenced by frontman Myles Kennedy’s time singing for Slash’s band, and guitarist Mark Tremonti’s self-titled heavy metal solo project.
It’s really no surprise then, that The Last Hero’s first track was also the first single. “Show Me a Leader” lures the listener in with deceptively soft plucking before launching into a masterful onslaught of dueling guitars, which set the tone for the rest of the album. The first line, “Well they’re selling another messiah” wastes no time digging into the political unrest at the core of the record’s imagery. The following two tracks, “The Writing on the Wall” and “The Other Side” are equally fast-hitting, angry cuts despite “The Other Side’s” sultry vocal delivery.
“The Writing on the Wall” is outright unapologetic in both theme and sound, calling out global warming deniers with an onslaught of brilliant lines like “Deny the rate of change / The ignorance is swarming, what a shame / And you know that you’re to blame.”
Equally fast-hitting is the cut that follows. “The Other Side” eases into a chunky, hard rock intro but differentiates itself from the rest of the album by the low, sultry delivery of Kennedy’s vocals through each of the verses. This was honestly the first track I latched onto with my initial listening of the album, not only because of its different approach, but also because there’s some really fabulous writing in there. It’s angry, it’s confrontational, it points out the hypocrisy of blind moral discourse. “You think that Heaven’s gates are waiting / But only Hell will come”
“My Champion” offers the listener that first chance to breathe. Lighter than the previous three, “My Champion” is a familiar glimpse into Alter Bridge’s uncanny ability to deliver a powerful uplifting track with the kind of anthem-like chorus that begs to be shouted loud. “Hope these words are enough for you to be strong, my friend”
“Poison In Your Veins” swoops it back up a notch, leading into the heavier sound of “Cradle to the Grave.” Don’t be fooled into believing Alter Bridge has given us a formulaic hard rock album, however. It’s anything but. “Cradle to the Grave,” though heavy in its technical execution, is balanced by Kennedy’s emotionally soaring vocals, which makes it slightly reminiscent of “Blackbird.” Alter Bridge has a particularly poignant way of dealing with the themes of loss, and “Cradle” is no different. The incorporation of solid, chilling solos and haunting lyrics like “Nothing lasts forever / Nothing stays the same” made this one of my most-played songs on the album.
The two tracks that follow, “Losing Patience” and “This Side of Fate,” while strong on their own—because let’s face it, every track on this album shines in one way or another—are overshadowed by “Cradle” and “You Will Be Remembered.” The latter develops as a slow-building churn of rising vocals and layered harmonies. In fact, one of my favorite aspects on this album is the depth of Kennedy’s self-harmonizing vocals throughout.
Chunky guitars kick “Crows on a Wire” into motion, but it’s the combined effort of drummer Scott Phillips and bassist Brian Marshall that give the track its irresistible headbanging quality. It’s a clean-cut, musically-angry track with a driving solo that’s sure to please fans of Alter Bridge’s harder, technical edge.
“Twilight” is another one that feels a little lost to me, which may only be due to its placement. “Island of Fools” brings back around the edge of the album’s initial song. It soars hard toward the album’s title track, which at nearly 7 minutes, does a remarkable job of encompassing The Last Hero‘s overall sound, atmosphere and theme.
The Last Hero opens up strong and heavy, which could initially be a deterrent to those fans who like their Alter Bridge a little lower on the hard rock slider, but my suggestion would be to stick with it and give it a chance to win you over. Because it will. The Last Hero has a lot to offer, but it won’t show you all its secrets on the first pass, or even on the second – it grows stronger with every spin. Fans won’t be disappointed. While you wait for the record to drop on Friday, October 7th, check out the sweet sampling of new tracks the band has released on Spotify. Listen here.
01. Show Me A Leader
02. The Writing on the Wall
03. The Other Side
04. My Champion
05. Poison In Your Veins
06. Cradle To The Grave
07. Losing Patience
08. This Side Of Fate
09. You Will Be Remembered
10. Crows On A Wire
12. Island Of Fools
13. The Last Hero