Some albums come along once in a blue moon that are like a fine wine. They need to be opened and allowed to breathe before you can truly appreciate them at their best.
Alter Bridge’s fifth studio album, The Last Hero, is one such record. Released on 7 October via Napalm Records, this is a monster of a listen. It’s not for the faint hearted.
I’ve delayed writing it up to allow time to appreciate and unravel its many layers and underlying themes. Ten days down the line and countless listens later, I’m still hearing something new every time I play it.
The Last Hero loosely explores the theme of heroism but is by no means a concept album. The four members of Alter Bridge have all spent time over the last three years exploring side projects, like Tremonti and Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators, and it’s the learnings from these that are brought to the fore here.
Opening track Show Me A Leader get things off to a bold start. There’s no denying the dig at the current political situation within the USA in this one.
“Well they’re selling another messiah here tonight but we’re all divided to buy it.”
The radio edit if this single is perhaps best avoided as it doesn’t include the stunning guitar intro that runs to over a minute in length. There’s an air of unease/a hint of darkness being created from the off.
The Writing On The Wall moves the listener’s thoughts to climate change and global warming. Love the military vibe to the snares in Scott Phillips’ drumming. This track is heavy. This track is majestically dark.
Third track, The Other Side, continues the dark heavy brooding journey. Is this record going to be even darker than the superb AB III? This song wouldn’t have been out of place on either of Mark Tremonti’s more recent solo project albums, Cauterize and Dust.
“Time for you to meet your maker playing God tonight.”
The long lost sibling track of Words Darker Than Their Wings perhaps? One of my personal favourites.
My Champion lifts the mood for a few minutes. The intro reminds me of a mix of The Who (think Baba O’Riley) meets vintage ACDC. Inspirational. Upbeat. Straight from the heart.
“Let this be your victory song. A song for you when I am gone. Reminding you of what you’re meant to be.” Love it!
There are thirteen tracks on this record, fourteen on the deluxe edition, and I could go on at length about each and every one of them. No less than six of the thirteen exceed the five minute mark but none of them feel a second too long.
Cradle To The Grave is a monster of a track that exceeds the five minutes. It’s haunting. It’s a heavy, dark, intense listen but with subtle lighter moments.
“All these memories start to fade before me. I cannot let them go.”
Hints of Ghosts Of Days Gone By in the background. Another strong chorus and personally I can’t wait to hear this one played live when Alter Bridge tour the UK and Europe later this year. (A premiere in Nottingham or Glasgow would be nice…hint..hint.)
This Side Of Fate, track eight, lures the listener into its depths with a beautifully picked intro. This is the longest track on the record and is of epic proportions. It’s Myles at his soaring vocal best. The first section has more than a hint of blues before the full force of Alter Bridge seals the listener’s fate. Stunning track!
Like all Alter Bridge records, there’s a gorgeous ballad tucked away amidst the darkness. You Will Be Remembered is this album’s hidden gem. It’s dedicated to those who have served and sacrificed their lives but I can’t help but wonder if it has a more personal meaning too.
“I wrote these words to tell you all the things I should’ve said so long ago. So Long ago. Know that I am grateful. I will not forget or let your memory go. No I won’t. I’ve waited way too long.”
Gorgeous power ballad.
For a showcase of Myles’ vocal talents, Crows On A Wire is the track to watch out for. Again the air is dark and menacing. Mark Tremonti displays his thunderous guitar talents to perfection. Great heavy riff.
“Cause they’re waiting just like crows on a wire to pry and conspire. That’s all they do.”
The Alter Bridge team have conspired to come up with a mammoth listen here. Awesome track.
Title track, The Last Hero, brings proceedings to an end on the standard version of the record. They’ve thrown everything into this heart and soul. This track showcases Scott Phillips at his finest but there’s not a weak moment from any of them on this one. This track brings things to a soaring conclusion.
Much as I loved 2013’s Fortress, I personally feel that The Last Hero has raised the bar even higher. It’s a welcome return to the dark side of AB III while it has built on the majesty of Fortress. Mike “Elvis” Baskette has done a fantastic job on the production here, teasing the best out of all four members of the band. Is this their magnum opus? Personally, I’m pretty sure there’s even more to come from the souls of Alter Bridge.
Is this the album of 2016? Quite possibly. It’s certainly top of my list so far this year.
images sourced via Google
Credits to the owners