Alter bridge releases highly anticipated album The Last Hero
Alter Bridge, the commercially successful and critically acclaimed spiritual successor to Creed, has returned with a fifth studio album The Last Hero. The previous three years have seen the band members, namely lead guitarist Mark Tremonti and lead singer and guitarist Myles Kennedy, take part in various side projects that produced music that was noticeably different from the material of Alter Bridge.
For this new album, the band decided to both pay tribute to its early days and latest material to take its sound into the future. While the band is the furthest thing from a progressive rock band, or even a progressive metal band, a lot of the band’s albums have had some loose underlying concept in terms of lyrics. From religion and faith to addictions and the pain it causes, Alter Bridge’s lyrics never shy away from hitting listeners’ raw nerves. For the new album, a lot of the songs tackle subjects like leadership and the overall ideas and philosophy of heroism. With a very intense U.S. presidential election, the lingering war on terror and drastic global warming dominating the headlines all over the world, The Last Hero is an album that often hits close to home.
The opening song and lead single “Show Me A Hero” starts the concept off with a very anthem-like hook and song structure that focuses on humanity’s weariness toward political leadership in the turbulent modern world. “Writing On the Wall” is a harsh song attacking those who deny climate change that mixes the band’s modern sound with the rougher tones of classic metal bands such as Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden. While the first half of the album features the strongest heavy hitters, the last half features some gems in the form of two of the album’s ballads. “My Champion” and “You Will Be Remembered” are surprisingly moving songs that pay tribute to the armed forces and the ultimate sacrifice they made.
If there is any real flaw in this album, it is its length. At 66 minutes—75 for the Best Buy exclusive version that contains two additional songs—it is certainly the longest album the band has ever released. While all the songs are good in their own ways, the album could have benefited if one or two songs had been dropped from the track list. While it is nice of the band to try and give the fans their money’s worth of songs in the album, bands like Rival Sons and Royal Blood have shown in the last two years that sometimes less is more in terms of album quantity.
Musically, The Last Hero shows the band stretching its talents further, while stopping occasionally to pay tribute to its well-known roots. Several songs feature Tremonti playing a seven string electric guitar for the first time and the end result puts him in a whole new league alongside contemporaries like Joe Satriani and John Petrucci of Dream Theater. His skill is also significantly less rough around the edges compared to the last few records. One could say that his time and effort with his self-titled solo band has really helped to smoothen out his already excellent style. A couple of the other songs on the album, namely “Losing Patience,” will bring long-time fans memories of the band’s 2004 debut One Day Remains.
The rest of the band is just as strong as it has ever been. Kennedy’s lead vocal range is still vast and melodic, making him the modern equivalent of classic rock vocalists like Bruce Dickinson, Roger Daltrey and Robert Plant. But the biggest surprise is that his guitar playing has also changed dramatically since the band’s inception. In the past, his guitar parts were largely improvisational in their structure and arrangement, especially compared to Tremonti’s leads. Kennedy spent several years on the side creating two highly successful collaborative albums with Guns n’ Roses guitarist Saul Hudson, also known as Slash.
The time that he spent with Slash turned out to be quite beneficial to his skills, as it has with Tremonti and his solo band. Kennedy’s solos now sound and feel like they were thoroughly written and planned out before he went into the studio to record them. Backing up both Kennedy and Tremonti are the amazing rhythm section of Brian Marshall on bass guitar and Scott Phillips on drums, providing the heavy handed groove that drives the band.
Since it came together, most of the members of Alter Bridge have spent their entire careers trying to escape the shadow of Creed. With The Last Hero, it looks like the band has not only escaped it, but also became much larger than the original band in terms of skill and songwriting.