Alter Bridge is one of those bands that I knew the name of, thought I knew a couple of songs, but generally did not know much about the band and their mission. A few of my friends have been dropping the band’s name and the name of its guitar player and founding member Mark Tremonti in one breath in always positive contexts, and with the release of their 5th studio album The Last Hero on October 7, 2016, through Napalm Records, I had to finally give it spin. And boy am I happy that I did that!
See our #fhtz interview with Mark Tremonti of Alter Bridge taped during their The Last Hero European Tour on 11 December 2016 in Switzerland:
My copy of The Last Hero (special 14-track digipak edition) kicks off with the heavily epic intro to the brachial Show Me A Leader, the perfect song to nod along! The Writing On The Wall builds upon its predecessor and continues with even more energy. I especially like the groove break-down after the first chorus. Track 3, The Other Side, takes down the pace a notch but increases the intensity of the brachial mood with dissonant chords and dark harmonies to then open up in the chorus. My Champion brings light to the rather dark mood of the album. Its light melody and colourful harmonies make it arguably the most radio-friendly song on the album – a truly beautiful song.
Poison In Your Veins reminds us that The Last Hero is supposed to radiate a rawer feel and continues in the vein of the opening tracks, although with a more melodic chorus. Cradle To The Grave, track 6, is one of my personal favourites on the album thus far. It is a melancholic mid-tempo tune characterised by an acoustic guitar picking-riff. But make no mistake, it is not a ballad. The song creates and lives for beautiful dynamics. Miles Kennedy’s hooks are top-notch and so is Mark Tremonti’s guitar-playing. Just check out that guitar solo after 3:40. Losing Patience plays again with smart dynamics and melodies. Big kudos to drummer Scott Phillips for very clever drum arrangements.
This Side Of Fate introduces the second half of the album with a 6/8th-groove and more melody than other songs on the album. Again, dynamics make the song a treat to listen to. The song You Will Be Remembered brought a tear to my eye even before the first phrase finished. I expected it to be heartbreaking, but it actually turned out to be melancholically uplifting. The song pays tribute to those who sacrifice their lives for others. Crows On A Wire brings us back to a darker mid-tempo mood before Twilight adds a brighter and more colourful mood again.
Island Of Fools is another gem on The Last Hero carrying one of the more brachial riffs on the record embellished with an epic cut-time chorus that opens up halfway through. the guitar and bass work on this song as well as the production is simply insane. I can imagine it won’t be everyone’s favourite song, but for those amongst you with a good ear, you might share my opinion on the amazing Island Of Fools. The standard edition of the album closes with the the title track, The Last Hero, a well-crafted, cut-time and rather melancholic song characterised by clever instrument arrangements going from 6/8th to shuffled 4/4th, as well as intriguing chord progressions. Alter Bridge definitely close on a very high note there. Color me impressed!
The special 14-track digipak edition closes with the song Last Of Our Kind that perfectly depicts the entire mood and feel of the album: dark and melancholic mid-tempo songs characterised by brachial guitar riffs and grooves, embellished with catchy melodies underlined by clear harmonies.
In A Nutshell
As I mentioned above, I didn’t know much about Alter Bridge before listening to The Last Hero. Hence, I was able to absorb their music with objective ears. Very soon I started realising that I had been missing out on a very special band with absolutely phenomenal music – or at least, music that resonates with me. The songwriting on The Last Hero is authentic and not forced. I believe what singer Miles Kennedy is singing and what the band is playing. The song structures are well-thought out and no part was forced into a position where it does not belong. Furthermore, the soundscape is homogeneous. All songs sound as if they belong on this record and all individual instruments keep their organic sound throughout the album, something that I appreciate greatly.
I can only repeat myself: Alter Bridge’s The Last Hero is a heavy metal masterpiece due to its homogenous soundscape, excellent songwriting and the beautifully melancholic energy. The band has definitely found a new fan.