There is nothing that engages the mainstream rock consciousness quite like heavy-ass guitar, bass and drums all singing to the same tune as an amazing vocalist….and that is possibly the one cast-iron explanation behind the incredible success of Florida’s Alter Bridge. One only needs to look at the #6 billboard peak of their last album, Fortress – and the calibre of venue booked for their upcoming tour – to see the kind of business these boys continue to do ahead of the release of this, their fifth opus; The Last Hero.
The evolution of Alter Bridge is not particularly easy to chart. After all, on release of their first album they already boasted world-class chops. Myles Kennedy was already considered one of the best rock voices of his generation while Mark Tremonti, going at full tilt, punched a similar weight as the likes of John Petrucci and Paul Gilbert. The latter was never more evident than when Guitarist Magazine voted the solo in “Blackbird” as the greatest of all time and drove interest in the band to fever pitch ahead of their third, some say best album, ABIII. But such a career trajectory begs the question: by outing number five, what do they have left to say?
Well, it’s clear events on the world stage have had an impact on the lyrics this time around. On the opening track – to the kind of detuned, churning guitars that have defined their sound – Kennedy demands, “Show me a leader who won’t compromise,” before the second cut picks up similar claims that time is running out, all backed by the portent chiming of bells to reinforce the gravity of the situation.
Indeed we are hit hard and repeatedly with the vocal and instrumental histrionics that we have come to expect from Alter Bridge, but the craft of their songwriting continues to become ever more sophisticated. The Last Hero contains several potential singles and tunes such as “This Side of Fate” boast moments of almost Physical Graffiti-esque vastness akin to finding yourself on a desert highway at midnight in the throes of some bittersweet personal revelation. Suffice to say, everything is big. Very big!
Of course, guitar players the world over will, no doubt, rejoice in yet another incredible display from Mark Tremonti. His modal knowledge and note choice is always impressive but at times – such as on the impassioned lead in “Poison In Your Veins” – he produces moments that rank among his best work. Sure, there are more restrained moments on the album where Alter Bridge nudge towards bluesy hard rock that bears uncomfortable commonalities with Nickelback et al. (“My Champion”, “You Will Be Remembered”) but it only takes the aural smelling salts of another drilling Tremonti riff and you’re right back with your horns jammed skyward!
Alter Bridge’s business plan with The Last Hero appears to be a piece of paper with ‘like before but more so’, scrawled on it. We are talking heavy-ass riffage topped-off with soaring, life-affirming vocals that could (and probably will) ignite stadiums. Of course, the pertinent question is does The Last Hero do anything that their previous albums didn’t? Short of edging the grandeur of the whole thing up a notch the answer is not really and if you didn’t dig Alter Bridge before, you still won’t. But for us, this is what it’s all about; melodic, heavy music made for adults.
Five albums in and Alter Bridge are still an undeniably stirring proposition. 8/10.
Alter Bridge embark on a headline arena tour of the UK in November. The tour includes support from Volbeat, Gojira, and Like A Storm.
Dates are as follows:
Wed 23rd Nov – MANCHESTER Arena
Thu 24th Nov – LONDON O2 Arena
Sat 26th Nov – NOTTINGHAM Capital FM Arena
Sun 27th Nov – BIRMINGHAM Genting Arena
Mon 28th Nov – CARDIFF Motorpoint Arena
Thu 1st Dec – GLASGOW Hydro
Fri 2nd Dec – LEEDS First Direct Arena