Album Review: Alter Bridge - 'The Last Hero'.
It’s difficult to believe that ‘The Last Hero’ is album number five for Alter Bridge. That’s not because their output has been particularly prolific – their debut album was released in 2004 – but with the success of extra-curricular activities; like singer Myles Kennedy with Slash & The Conspirators, and Tremonti featuring eponymous guitarist Mark Tremonti - not to mention the band from whom Alter Bridge were birthed, Creed, who have been touring sporadically - it’s easy to forget just what the members of Alter Bridge call home.
As such, it’s nice to be reminded exactly why the band still exists. Alter Bridge are one of the most consistent straight ahead hard rock bands of the last decade, and with their latest return, pleasingly, the Florida four-piece have delivered their best album to date.
A timely release with the current political turmoil both in the U.K. and Stateside, ‘The Last Hero’ is an album that is simply bursting with fight, optimism, defiance and grit, as manifested in its fist in the air anthems, heavy riffs and glorious choruses.
Setting out its manifesto from the off, the opening ‘Show Me A Hero’ rouses the listener in uproarious fashion. A driving rocker with the gait between its teeth, it’s punchy and bursting with attitude. The mid-paced ‘The Writing On The Wall’ follows, with more bite and attitude, with Tremonti’s trilling guitars vying for space with Kennedy’s affirming vocal.
Though positivity abounds, the measured pace of ‘The Other Side’ brings with it a slightly more menacing vibe, with some spooky fretwork and d-tuned licks to making it one of the album’s eeriest tracks. ‘From The Cradle’, which follows later, treads a similar dark path, melding acoustic picking to the sonic palate.
Reaffirming anthems however, are ‘The Last Hero’s lifeblood, and none are more uplifting than ‘My Champion’. It’s easy to get this type of message wrong, but Kennedy’s conviction takes the song beyond trite; “you’ve got to keep fighting and get back up again”, he cries; “you will survive and be much more than you were”. It also features a superbly flash but tasteful solo from Tremonti, who never oversteps the mark, as does ‘You Will Be Remembered’, which treads a similar musical and lyrically sentimental path.
Alter Bridge 2016 are clearly a band at the top of their game, and throughout both singer and guitarist put in outstanding performances, abetted by a snare drum-tight rhythm section of bassist Brian Marshall and drummer Scott Phillips, who underpin each track.
Highlights? There are many, from the dizzying defiance of “Poison In Your Veins”, to the nervously energetic “Losing Patience’ and the melodious Muse-aping “This Side Of Fate”. All the while, the energy never dips, with the band’s performance entirely believable.
“Tell me where are the heroes? Have we lost all the heroes?”, asks Kennedy as the album draws to a close. Thankfully, there are still some things you can depend upon, and in these turbulent times, it’s good to know that some of our musical luminaries haven’t gone away.
By Eamon O'Neill on 14th October 2016.
'The Last Hero' is out now.