I've had three spins from the album so far. I started writing this review after my second time, and writing during the third spin. Enjoy!
I’ve been a long time poster on this forum, from way back to the ABB.Net days. I don’t post much here much anymore, but I do lurk. I’ve witnessed the changes the band has gone through over the past 12 years (I can’t believe we’ve had 12 years of Alter Bridge!), from record labels to their business approach to selling records and touring, to side projects. The one thing that hasn’t changed is the dynamic songwriting and interplay from our beloved band who truly is one of the greats of rock music since the turn of the century.
One thing about many great bands and artists is that their sounds do change over time. If they didn’t try new things; didn’t change their sound, they wouldn’t be the renowned artist like we know them. Led Zeppelin went from writing (and covering) blues and folk music to psychedelic, hypnotic rock. Compare The Beatles Please Please Me to Abby Road, and the difference in sound is huge. Even Michael Jackson changed his sound several times in his solo career, from disco to R&B to new jack swing. In Alter Bridge’s case, we go from the anthem rock songs of One Day Remains to heavy progressive rock that they display in The Last Hero. And that is ok.
The Last Hero to me is an incredible testament for the band that they don’t want every new release to sound like the last one. That they want to push themselves with new ideas and styles. This album is chalk full different chord progressions, experimentation of songs structures, and implementing influences from romantic classical music and operatic rock. They delivered an album in which the sound and the story shines grander than any other Alter Bridge record to date.
There is a theme throughout this record that makes it one of the more compelling Alter Bridge records. It’s as if Myles Kennedy wrote this waiting for Superman. Waiting for someone to lift society and inspire us. It’s not in your face political ala Rage Against The Machine or Public Enemy. In fact, he takes the approach of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, a record that emphasizes instead of criticizes. Here, Myles understands the divisiveness and current state of our society, and touches on these emotions of frustration and unrest.
The lyrical content compliments the overall musical aesthetic of the album. It’s heavy, energetic, and at times, chaotic. This album is quite diverse, but don’t expect a mellow ballad like “Watch Over You” in this one. In fact, a song a like that would probably feel out of place in the tone set throughout the album. Despite the lack of a mellow ballad, you got songs like “You Will Be Remembered” and “My Champion” that fits in nicely as anthemic ballads that gives thanks. Songs like “Cradle To The Grave” display the romanticism of Chopin and Bellini. The bridge to “This Side of Fate” will make any fans of Queen and Muse smile ear to ear. The influence of the rock opera and glam sounds of these bands are definitely heard, from the music composition to the soaring vocals of Myles Kennedy.
This album is full of head bang worthy riffs. “Island of Fools” stands out to me as one of Alter Bridge’s finest to get you pumped. The build up in the first 30 seconds sets you up for an ally oop. That riff is just monstrous! The dual guitar interplay is phenomenal, backed up by the the thunder buddies, Brian Marshall and Scott Phillips. I especially enjoyed Flip’s play on “The Writing On The Wall”, and Brian holds together that bridge in “The Other Side”, and absolutely brings in it “Poison In Your Veins.”
Mark Tremonti is the definitive lead hard rock guitarist of our time. Yes, he has his signature sound, but to be able to change up his chord progression and be effective is a testament of how talented the man is. We heard a little bit of this industrial progressive type of playing in “Calm The Fire” on Fortress, but I’ll even go back to Blackbird with “Coming Home,” specifically in the chorus. Songs like “Losing Patience” will give the fans in a concert such a jolt of energy, I love Mark’s sludgy riffs he dished in his solo band, and served us with that riffage with “The Other Side.” The vocal work on this record is the most dramatic, dynamic, and haunting that we ever heard Myles Kennedy perform, and it truly shows the range this man possesses. He just can perform any type of style exceptionally well. He channels his inner Freddie Mercury in a operatic tone in songs like “Cradle To The Grave”, “This Side of Fate” and “The Last Hero.” His vocals just absolutely soars.
The title track is one of the most satisfying endings to an album that I heard in awhile. "The Last Hero" might be a better ending to an album than "Fortress", which absolutely stunned me with that killer dual guitar solo. However, "The Last Hero" rounds up the album thematically, if not dramatically. In fact, Myles states this with “Tell me where are the heroes” in this incredible furious, head banging moment leading up to the first solo. The solos on this song are just constructed so well, and I’m sure they were tailored for the lyrics. The chorus might be my favorite off this record.
The Last Hero succeeds in many aspects. It does pay homage to their past work, but ultimately, owning to their evolution to be one of the dynamic bands today. It’s not a departure from the sounds of the past per se, because each album is a departure from the last. However, The Last Hero made sure of one thing; that the band won’t stop growing, won’t stop fighting, and won’t stop excelling.
The Last Hero
Island Of Fools
This Side of Fate
Cradle To The Grave
The Other Side