Alter Bridge are currently touring again after a year off, and are smashing the silence with their new release, The Last Hero. And it is everything you expected: more addictive riffs, more iconic vocals, and more songs that sound ideally suited to be played as a wrestler enters the ring. Even better, in response to the downright lunacy and actually rather terrifying reality that surrounds the current US Presidential Election, Alter Bridge’s fifth album is almost perfectly timed.
For those not formally acquainted, Alter Bridge are the bastard love child of Creed and vocalist Myles Kennedy’s prior outfit The Mayfield Four. Fun Fact; You may/ definitely will recognise them as the performers of WWE superstar Edge’s theme music. Acclaimed for their technical proficiency and huge vocal presence, Alter Bridge have been busy with a new album that maintains the bands signature sound, and explores themes of power and corruption, our need for heroes and ultimately how it falls to us to become them.
Show Me A Leader, the opening track, is an explosive start to the album, an isolating melody that gives way into rapturous rhythm, incredible guitar work and politically laced, anthemic vocals: never before has protest been so easy to make a fist and scream along to. Energetic and driven, the band question the political status quo and demand a fair, accountable leader. Not just politically aware, the track is brilliant in its scale. This level of energy is maintained throughout the 14 track release, with more all encompassing choruses and belting, arena sized riffs throughout.
As always, Alter Bridge are a difficult band to assign a genre, ranging from fierce, at times dark aggression, to truly affirming and positive, from sharp, brutal metallic riffs, to accessible, arena-rock choruses and harmonies. This is present throughout, with material that never sheds the bands style. Kennedy, and guitarist Mark Tremonti together create gigantic and memorable harmonies, and while the vocals aren’t particularly varied or versatile, they are definitely powerful and instantly recognisable. As always, the sheer ability and technical ability on display is awe-inspiring.
Whilst the album maintains a sound that is always recognisable, there is some limited variation to be found between tracks. The Other Side is grim and oozes despair, in stark contrast to following song My Champion, which is upbeat and energetic, an ode to positivity and dedication. Whilst Cradle To The Grave varies in scale from a ballad to an anthem, titular song The Last Hero is a melancholic and almost defeatist closing song. In their own words, Alter Bridge are very much a live band, and many of the tracks are testimony to this; Brazen and bold, they beg to be screamed out loud in a wall of sound of truly epic scale. Poison In Your Veins is an ironically addictive track, and Island Of Fools is a poignant example of how they have all the makings of a mind-blowing live act.
The only criticism is that the album doesn’t really relent, and with the vocals being so recognisable and iconic, there is ultimately not a lot to offer in term of variety. Furthermore, the band take few risks, and as a result the new album doesn’t necessarily do anything new or groundbreaking. However, fans of the band and metalheads alike will find plenty to offer, from brutal riffs and relentless vocals to a style and presence reminiscent of a myriad of rock classics.
Ultimately, The Last Hero is a fantastic release and an essential addition to an already stellar catalog of work. And I defy you to hear the opening track and, failing the resistance to sing along loud, not be desperate to see them live.