The Last Hero review by Alter Bridge

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  • Released: Oct 7, 2016
  • Sound: 8
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 8 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.1 (45 votes)
Alter Bridge: The Last Hero
3

Sound — 8
I've always thought of Alter Bridge as being somewhat like a 21st-century Van Halen. They definitely have a lot of the ingredients: a ridiculously talented guitarist-slash-consummate songwriter, an in-your-face frontman with some of the most distinctive and powerful pipes on the music scene, a rhythm section that locks in perfectly and adds to the music without detracting from it in any way, and a rather seamless and timeless blend of styles both past, present, and, perhaps, future. Huge riffs, blazing solos, wailing vocal melodies, epic song structures, not a single AB album has failed to live up to expectations so far.

"The Last Hero," the fifth album in Alter Bridge's catalog, gets cracking in a spectacular way with opener "Show Me a Leader," with its epic and bombastic extended instrumental opening giving way to some very powerful hard rock, with a hell of an earworm in the chorus, and a brief but enticing guitar solo. This track really sets the tone for the rest of the record, which matches heavier riffs (some of which mark the first time the band has utilized seven-string guitars) with soaring, epic melodies. Even the solo in the tune has some really catchy phrases, and that's one of my favourite things about Mark Tremonti's guitar playing, is that it actually sounds like he is having fun playing his solos, and that they don't sound at all like a guitarist going through pointless exercises to string together a solo. Later on in the album we get heavier riffs like the intro of "The Writing on the Wall" and "The Other Side," which are some of the most "metal" tracks the band has released in recent memory, and could perhaps be a bit of Tremonti's thrash and speed metal influences coming through from his recent solo album releases. "My Champion" is an uplifting rocker with some very catchy major-key guitar parts and lovely vocal melodies from vocalist Myles Kennedy. "Poison in Your Veins" continues where "The Writing on the Wall" and "The Other Side" left off, with some more metal-tinged riffs.

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"Cradle to the Grave" is one of my two favourite tracks from the album, with a bit more of a dynamic sound, incorporating acoustic guitars and softer verses with heavier choruses. The middle section is even a little proggy, with Mark's repeated guitar ostinato preceding another absolutely excellent solo. "Losing Patience" is another good, riffy hard rocker, with possibly my favourite chorus on the album. The band seems to really enjoy doing these types of songs on this record, but up until this point I had been lamenting the lack of any material that could match the epic grandeur of my particular favourite song of theirs, "Blackbird." "This Side of Fate," however, may have made me change my mind a little. This is definitely my favourite song on the record, bar none. The acoustic guitars, the vocal melodies, the modulations in the choruses, the little guitar solos here and there, this song comes off to me as one of the most inspired pieces on not just this record, but on all of their records since "Blackbird." Another repeated guitar lead riff about halfway through the song adds a bit of progginess to the track, along with another good heavy riff that sounds like it might have been played on a 7-string as well. Even the main guitar solo is one of the best on this entire record, evoking a bit of John Petrucci at times. I could go on about this song for days, but there are still a few more on the record to go through, like the uplifting and inspiring "You Will Be Remembered," the heavy "Crows on a Wire," the upbeat rocker "Twilight," the heavy and epic "Island of Fools" (which has some truly excellent singing and a really cool guitar solo!), and the epic closing title track. While it doesn't quite match "This Side of Fate" for me, it's pretty damn close, and it plays on a lot of the reasons I'm loving this album, like the epic, soaring melodies, the heavier riffs, the dynamic changes from quiet to loud, the slightly-more-prog arrangements, Mark's incredible guitar playing.

As mentioned early on in the article, while the band's sound is much like Van Halen in that they're a rare band where both the vocalist and guitarist could be considered "equal frontmen," Brian Marshall (bass) and Scott Phillips (drums) do an absolutely solid job throughout the record, giving Mark and Myles lots of space to perform their asses off, but still contributing in their own way by accenting and understanding dynamics. While they don't get any big, grand solo moments, their sound is still integral to the band and I feel it'd be hard to replace them.

About my only criticism of the sound of the record might be that the production makes this album sound a little too over-the-top at times. Michael "Elvis" Baskette does a fine enough job of mixing (though the mix is a little loud at times), and even provides string arrangements and keyboards for the band, but at times it seems like he's thrown a few too many elements into the mix where something a bit more stripped-back and raw would have been far more powerful. It's probably for this reason that I enjoyed the tracks with softer sections more, since there was a bit of breathing room on those tracks, and the volume maybe didn't stay cranked to 11 the whole time. But that's a rather minor criticism compared to the excellence of the music on display here.

Lyrics — 8
Alter Bridge has always had a pretty good mix of lyrical themes, including politics, faith, relationships, and uplifting inspirational themes. For all the darkness of a lyric like "The Other Side" ("If you believe yours is the only way/Then you're the fool who lives to die/Well you deserve the Hell, you're gonna pay/On the other side"), there seems to always be some light in the form of more inspirational messages like the one in the following song "My Champion" ("You've lost so many times it hurts/But failures made are lessons learned/Cause in the end what you are will be much more/Than you were"). And even though some of the songs, such as "Show Me a Leader" or "The Writing on the Wall," dabble in politics, it doesn't seem to be an "us vs. them" approach, or a partisan kind of political lyric, but rather showing disdain for the entire system all at once. You can be on either side of the political coin and find something to relate to in lyrics like "Don't tell us this is normal/Don't tell us there's no change/So selfish and immoral, you're to blame/'Cause you're the great disrupter/Still crossing out of line/Now tell me who will suffer for all your crimes? /We are running out of time."

Belting out these lyrics, Myles Kennedy proves himself on this album yet again as one of rock music's most potent current singers. He does seem to push a little more on this album and there are fewer moments of him using a more subdued voice than on past albums, so any live performances focusing on material from this album are likely to be a test of his stamina. To be honest, though, I do miss some of the softer moments with his more subdued voice, as the first few times I've listened to this album, Myles' singing did come off as a little exhausting. But if that aspect of this band turns you off a little, worry not, as I did eventually settle into it, and have even come to enjoy that aspect of this record. But vocally speaking, my favourite track is still "This Side of Fate." That's the track where all of my favourite elements of Myles' vocal style (as well as the rest of the band, as mentioned above) came together flawlessly.

Overall Impression — 8
The last few Alter Bridge albums were kind of a mixed bag for me, and the last album of theirs I really got into was "Blackbird." None of this stopped "AB III" or "Fortress" from being critically acclaimed, and they're excellent albums in their own right, but the strength of the title track of "Blackbird" kept me yearning for another epic track like that to appear on a new AB record. It seems like I got that wish a few times over on "The Last Hero," which displays a penchant for epicness throughout the album. It's not a completely perfect record, but I feel that this is the band's strongest moment in years, and perhaps the influence Mark Tremonti brought from his recent solo albums might have been partly responsible for this. As expected, the guitar playing on this record is absolutely sublime, and if you're looking for someone to show you a leader of shred guitar in 2016, look no further than the last hero, Mark Tremonti (okay, I'll stop with the puns now). Between this record and Mark's recently-released "Dust," he's been an absolutely prolific player, and these two records have such quality to them that they'll cement Mark's place in guitar playing for a long time to come.

And if you're just looking for a really good hard rock record in 2016, "The Last Hero" is a great blend of old and new, modern and classic rock, and I'd definitely recommend giving this a spin. Definitely one of the best albums Alter Bridge has come out with in a long time.

42 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Fausch
    It took them five albums to make one that didn't impress me more than the last one. In this day and age, I'd call that an accomplishment in and of itself. Great record, but not quite as good as Fortress. Also, did the reviewer listen to 'Cry of Achilles?' Saying Blackbird is the last epic tune they did is a little funny.
    TMoreau15
    And the track Fortress. You cannot deny that isn't an epic too, its like 7.5min and fucking sick.
    BudzMJJ
    Not their best album to date that still jointly goes to Blackbird and Fortress. But it pulls a close 2nd for me. The only thing that lets it down is the god awful production. You give credit to "Elvis" but I think he deserves none. His overloaded wall of sound production is just painful to the ears and listening to the whole album is one sitting is a bit of a chore because of it. Marks backing vocals are near inaudible throughout, Brian may as well not even played as you can never hear him, there are WAAAY to many layers of guitars, and just no need for s chorus of Myles' on every song. I think they really need to find a new producer for the next album.
    travislausch
    As the reviewer, I should mention too that while UG does have a relationship of sorts with Mark, this review is 100 percent honest. I really am a huge fan of his guitar playing and the sound these guys have. This is the kind of stuff I wish was playing on the radio when I was listening to it. In fact, let me tell you guys a story about how I was introduced to this band, that I wanted to include in my review, but I felt like it was too long-winded and personal: When their first album dropped, I was in 11th grade, playing in my first band. I wanted to play like all those classic rock guys I looked up to, but no one fucking played like that. It was all this Korn and Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park shit (which I enjoy now, but hated as a teenager), and no one fucking cared about guitar solos or musicianship. They just wanted to hear some hack DJ with a couple bursts of guitar riffing. I was pretty much ready, at a tender young age, to just give up guitar. Sure, my band was playing a few current hits at the time, and we even played a few Creed tunes, but I was just so disillusioned by the style of guitar playing that was out there. But on my way home from a field trip with my class, I was on the school bus with my cassette walkman, listening to the radio, and on comes fucking "Open Your Eyes", and I remember thinking "well this sounds like Creed but better". Then, the fucking solo started. My teenage mind was pretty much blown and BAM, the motivation to keep going was found. It wasn't the first time this had happened, nor would it be the last, but I still have to give Alter Bridge credit. As soon as I learned this was Mark Tremonti's band, it all made sense and I became a huge fan of his playing.
    Patrijz
    I'm loving the album! Love the heaviness of Island Of Fools, amazing opening riff. Myles really stepped up his soloing and are some of my favourites of the record, maybe even all-time AB solo's. The production/mixing/mastering (not sure where it went wrong) is a problem though. It's too much and too loud at times. Like the chorus of Cradle, you can hear the vocals distort and everything (and yes I have decent headphones). And it is kinda tiresome to listen because everything is so 'full'. Still love the album. But I'm easily satisfied when there are songs like Cradle to the Grave, This Side of Fate, Island of Fools and The Last Hero on it.
    mokkajojo
    I guess that comes from the fact that this is the first record where myles prepared most of his solos before recording according to an interview. It's also quite amusing that the main riff from Islands of Fools is from Myles, where I would have expected sth like that from mark
    lukcuturic97
    When did Myles have to step up his soloing?
    Patrijz
    Not saying he had to, just saying I think he did. I think his This Side Of Fate and The Last Hero solo are one of his best.
    lukcuturic97
    If you listen to Citizen Swing and The Mayfield Four, you can't really said he stepped up or down his soloing imho, he's amazing anyhow
    Patrijz
    Fair enough. I was thinking in the context of AB. Can't deny he showed some mad skills in his previous bands.
    omar.cportilla
    Glad I'm not the only one that thought this was overproduced! The songs are really great, but I hate how Elvis ALWAYS uses two tracks for Myles vocals. "Island of Fools" is my favourite on this album, but it's not close to a "Blackbird" or a "Cry of achilles". I completely agree with the review.
    the_nameless2005
    If you watch the video for 'Show Me A Leader' you can see Mark playing his one-off 7 string model. He also stated in a live Q&A on social media that he had a 7 string made for the album. Whilst the baritone is a new model, it isn't used much on the new AB album - Mark said that he'll be using it more for writing the Tremonti project music, as the drop B tuning sits better in his vocal range.
    vppark2
    I personally think Drop C sounds better for him, and Myles, but I'm biased since I play in that tuning more lol.
    sdbrown89
    While I respect the talent these guys have, and can clearly see they're popular, I just find a lot of their stuff too samey, this album is no different musically to any of their other albums. Its fine and harmless and will go down amazing live, but I sometimes feel like the lyrics and song structures are rehashed too much
    Voodoochile711
    I can see that, and in some ways I feel the same. I think the reason I'm a big fan of them, though, is because, despite the "sameyness", they never fail to be uplifting. I do disagree with you about all the albums feeling the same, though; certain musical themes might get rehashed a lot throughout their discography, but each album feels very different imo.
    rocklee1431
    I agree with you and sdbrown. All the songs they released before the album release didn't excite me or blow me away like I expect. But the album as a whole creates some awesome sounds and listening to it in its entirety definitely changed my mind. Sure, a lot of their songs follow the same formula, but the music within those songs is great.
    Gainsayer
    Like 95% of bands over the last decade, then. Can't think of too many bands in general that change the way they work their albums with every release, they have their "sound" that works for them and they stick to it with very slight variations, usually.
    Gainsayer
    Why people are down voting this I have no idea, it's an absolute fact that most (not all) bands have a "sound" that doesn't have a drastic album-by-album change. I'm not knocking Atler Bridge, they're one of my favourite bands, but a lot of songs on this album wouldn't sound out of place on One Day Remains. Same goes for Iron Maiden and Motorhead, love them, that doesn't change the fact that their sound hasn't changed too drastically in 30 years. It's not a slight on them, it's just how it is. Probably should have said "95% of bands that ever existed" instead of specifically the last decade, that'd have been more accurate, but quit being so sensitive.
    TMoreau15
    YOU JUST DESCRIBED EVERY ROCK BAND. AB is hard rock and just like most rock music it's chorus driven. If it isn't chorus driven it's usually prog rock. They're the new Guns N Roses without any party songs. I will agree with you that some of Myles lyrics seem to be in a box, he uses a lot of the same phrases. A really common one in AB is something about coming far only to fall hard. I'd say Fortress was their most ambitious album and it was still completely chorus driven. And everything they make will probably all be chorus driven. But also every album has a similar motif to work from, they're all about growing through some kind of unsure time; so the lyrics are gunna have some similarities because they're always singing about doubt and falling into or getting out of it. Myles even says in interviews, "I'm not the most confident guy, I don't wake up in the morning sure about anything, and my songs are the kinds of things I think to get through different problems." I'm not 100% about One Day Remains; but Blackbird is all common personal struggles people have (addiction, losing loved ones/friends, feeling pent up and pushed around); AB3 was about one of them questioning their religion; Fortress used the environment and one of their divorces to explain people being locked into a relationship or situation that is bad for their well being but don't know how to get out (or if they even can because they can't imagine the thought of living life a different way), and Last Hero is about disillusionment of people towards government and how individuals aren't sure how to pick up the slack.
    JimBonJovi
    Too overproduced this time around. After four tracks, my ears hurt like hell. Where's the space to let the tracks breathe? Goddamn.
    prcek295
    I know it´s daily bread for you guys here....but holy shit they actually posted some of the stuff I wrote as a part of my review in this finished version....thx a lot !!! this album is incredible!
    FrostShadow
    Very good album. However, it's not AB's best since it is let down by its production quality. Nonetheless, incredible musicianship seen from these guys.
    matt.j.hofmann
    It's a good album, but it doesn't really push any envelope or even their own sound. Nothing wrong with that since they have a very good and listenable sound, but you kind of expect more from talents like Tremonti and Kennedy. I haven't been able to give the album a serious "sit and listen" yet but nothing has jumped out yet. Still, a good album and worth buying but a bit disappointing considering who made it.
    pedroquintana
    Actually Mark is not using 7-strings. He's using his new PRS Baritone signature with lower tunings. You guys can check it here:
    BudzMJJ
    He uses a 7 string on Show Me A Leader. He has spoken about it in several interviews and there is studio footage of him recording on it. He only got the new signature Baritone for the tour AFTER the album was finished.
    lukcuturic97
    Not entirely true. He had the "baritone" (read: 25,5" PRS Tremonti) since the 2nd European leg of the 2015 Cauterize Tour
    TMoreau15
    The album and live versions are on a 7-string. But they do radio acoustic versions and both use 6-string.
    DethCouture5150
    "The next Tremonti record"... I can start holding my breath now.lol As much as I love the new AB, 'Dust' is easily a superior record.
    TheInserter
    One can definitely hear Slash's songwriting style influences on Myles' vocals (since his time spent touring with him), as well as Tremonti's more welcome approach with heavier riffs since his solo project. Great album. One of their best.
    LEHJOHND
    I feel this album might have been inspired by Trump
    lukcuturic97
    They say it's about the entire weirdly functioning American political system that has been going on "for a while now"