alter-brideg-2016

ALTER BRIDGE – The Last Hero

alter-bridge-the-last-heroIt took me a really long time to apprehend the greatness of Alter Bridge. When they first started out, I wasn’t the least interested in them and the reason for that is spelled Creed. 3/4 of Alter Bridge – guitarist Mark Tremonti, bassist Brian Marshall and drummer Scott Philips – were once, together with singer Scott Stapp, the band Creed and Creed were never my thing, to me they were only a more radio friendly, poor man’s version of Pearl Jam. But Creed called it quits after a turbulent tour in 2003 where singer Stapp went loony and through the ashes of Creed, Tremonti, Marshall and Philips formed Alter Bridge with their new guitar playing lead singer Myles Kennedy (ex – The Mayfield Four) and in 2004 they foursome released their debut album One Day Remains, an album that went Gold in the States and got some really good reviews. But to me, they were nothing but Creed with another singer so I didn’t bother with that album. Neither did I bother with the follow-up Blackbird (2007), an album that only sold half as much as its predecessor. It would take until 2010 when I got my shit together and gave the band a chance due to a song on compilation CD from Classic Rock Magazine lifted from their the new album AB III – and, of course, that I heard the mighty Myles Kennedy sing with Slash. That song (and the Slash connection) – I don’t remember which song it was – made me check out the whole album and the album totally floored me. AB III was a brilliant record and as far as I was concerned, they didn’t sound like Creed at all – and Myles Kennedy turned out to be an amazing singer. Alter Bridge’s last album Fortress (2013) was a killer as well (an album I only gave 8/10 when today I think it’s a very strong 9/10) – I can’t make up my mind about which one I love the most so let’s call it a tie – and it proved to me that AB III wasn’t just a lucky shot. The first two records, then? Well, they’re not bad but I just can’t seem to make them stick – good, but not great.

Alter Bridge are, just like Creed were, a really big band by now, filling arenas everywhere, but the members of the band is also keeping busy outside of the band. Myles Kennedy is maybe even more known as the lead singer for Slash’s band The New Conspirators with which he has released two albums and Mark Tremonti has two solo albums behind him where Wolfgang Van Halen, son of Edward, plays the bass. There has also been a Creed reunion which spawned a new record, so there are some high activity in the Alter Bridge camp, all the time. It’s been three years since the last album, a time span that is pretty normal these days for bands and with all the members’ side activities, one might wonder how they have managed to write the songs and record an album in between every other project they are involved in. Now, their new record contains 14 songs, which is quite a lot and one might wonder if the guys had rushed things this time, in order to get a new album out. On the other hand, Alter Bridge doesn’t seem like that kind of band. If the songs wouldn’t have cut the deal then they probably wouldn’t have released the album – at least I hope that’s the case.

They open the album at full blast with “Show Me A Leader”, a hard and driven metal track that punches you right in face and kicks you when you’re down. The verses whip up some tension before the very direct chorus brings everything home – the exact opening I had hoped for. The tone has been set for the rest of the album. “The Writing On The Wall” follows on the same path. It’s an aggressive gut-puncher with a clear heavy metal groove. The band also raise the dynamics by changing the tempo in the chorus vs. the verses – very cool. It’s a heavy song with a very memorable refrain –  a winner. “The Other Side” is dark, heavy and grabs you by the throat immediately. I find myself thinking of Black Sabbath at times and some of the riffing throws a nod to Zakk Wylde and Black Label Society. It’s a totally uncommercial song that probably won’t find its way on any single chart, but man what an incredible song it is. “My Champion” breaks the mold a bit. What we get here is a heavy, very pop-influenced rocker with a chorus so catchy it hurts. Fact is, the whole song is catchy, every melody and arrangement. I smell a hit! Bloody amazing! With “Poison In Your Veins” they bring back the heaviness and it is clear by the first riff that this song mean business and has come to kick your ass – and so it does! That said, once the refrain comes in, it nails itself to the brain very effectively. Killer stuff! “Cradle To The Grave” is a heavy ballad that moves around in metal territory without actually being heavy metal. The memorable and softer verses brings up an atmosphere for the heavy chorus, a chorus impossible not to embrace – another winner! “Losing Patience” is a fat, heavy, riff-happy hard rocker that goes in for the kill right away – Alter Bridge takes no prisoners, folks. Still, the refrain is astonishingly catchy and direct. Sonically it sounds like a mix of AB III and Fortress and what’s not to love about that? The phenomenal “This Side Of Fate” is also on the slower side and borders to a ballad although on a very heavy foundation. The main melody reminds me some of both Muse and Sixx A.M. but the song still sounds like Alter Bridge.

They go big on the harmonies on the slower and softer “You Will Be Remembered” which makes the already amazing chorus even better and bombastic. To be frank, it do leans somewhat on the old Creed-style (think their best album Weathered (2001), that had some really good songs on it) but it also brings on a slight Celtic vibe. It’s one of my favorite tunes on the album – if it’s possible to have a favorite on an album full of winners. “Crows On A Wire” kicks into motion with a big grooved heaviness, classic Alter Bridge style and it’s not a far cry from the sound of the last album. The guitar arrangement has a Middle-Eastern twitch which creates a cool atmosphere that makes the song stand out – a real knock-out! “Twilight” is a bit on the alternative side, but the big chorus and the killer guitar solo – that is more in the vein of the melodic rock of the late 80’s scene – gives the song a different edge. The instant heaviness and the brutal rhythm of the dark and moody “Island Of Fools” makes the song, what I like to call, an “album song”. It’s clearly written without any thought of airplay and the single potential is zero, but that only brings more depth to the song – a true nut buster and pure brilliance. The title track is the album’s closing track and man, what a way to bid farewell for this time. The verses comes in a softer mood and the contrast to the hard and heavy chorus is very dynamic, a chorus that takes you hostage the moment it kicks in. Some of the guitar parts reminds me of both Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden and it has a middle break that borrows from Kiss’ “Love Gun”, although that might not be intentional at all. But if it is, to bake in inspiration from those into the world of Alter Bridge is a strike of genius. The song takes turns from being both soft to very heavy and some parts are pure classic heavy metal. The song is so good it’s breathtaking. That said, I would advise anyone to spend a little extra money on the Digi-pack limited edition because then you get the magnificent “The Last Of Our Kind”. The song has a very melodic melody over a hard, dark and heavy rhythm. It’s tuned down and there are parts that actually reminds me of Korn – a really brutal groover that you don’t wanna miss.

After two amazing records the expectations on this album was sky-high but they have not only managed to make an album that is equally as good as the two previous ones, they have actually topped it. I was pretty sure that Alter Bridge would release a really good album this time as well, but that they would give us a record with 14 songs, all killer no filler and one that could very well be the album of the year wasn’t something I had expected – it seems like these guys just can’t do no wrong. Compared to the brutality and heaviness of FortressThe Last Hero comes with a bigger pop feel but the foundation is all based on heaviness and even though many songs are more catchy, hook laden and with a big hit vibe, this is a hard and heavy album. Actually, I think that the big choruses and striking hooks works to their benefit. Also, the production on this album is way better than it’s predecessor’s. Where the last album’s production was a bit too muddy, this one is clean and smooth but still with a hard-hitting punch, attack and aggression – and finesse. Before this album I considered myself a big Alter Bridge fan to be, but now I’m really there. Time to buy those concert tickets for their Sweden gig in November.

10/10

Other Alter Bridge reviews:

Fortress

Tracklist:

1. Show Me A Leader
2. The Writing On The Wall
3. The Other Side
4. My Champion
5. Poison In Your Veins
6. Cradle To The Grave
7. Losing Patience
8. This Side Of Fate
9. You Will Be Remembered
10. Crows On A Wire
11. Twilight
12. Island Of Fools
13. The Last Hero
14. The Last Of Our Kind (Limited edition bonus track)