ALBUM REVIEW: ALTER BRIDGE THE LAST HERO! 4 1/2 SKULLS
|Photo by: Christopher Crouse|
Fortress saw Alter Bridge steer to a progressive metal sound, but had two major drawbacks. The first being the production was not as stellar as the three albums that preceded it. The guitars were a bit to piercing and distorted to appreciate all the leads and chords put into that record. The biggest issue in production was Brian's bass was too low and mixed in with Scott's bass drum kick. Fortress had some of Brians best bass licks and if you listen closely you can hear them, but at first listen it was travesty. The second issue is, thought they are my favorite band, Fortress felt a bit rushed, not as well constructed as the albums before it. The Last Hero lacks those faults and takes that budding progressive sound to a new level.
To start Myles finally takes his rightful place next to Mark as a guitar player. For years Mark has pushed Myles to add more and more of his guitar talent to Alter Bridge and this album showcases their best chemistry yet and in many songs on this record both guitarists have individual solo's. Their guitar tone unique enough to distinguish from one another if you've paid attention since ABIII, Myles brings expensive chord progression to his solo's like never before and Mark is shredding experimentally better than ever. The guitars are top notch and require several listens to appreciate their intricacies. The leads on this album are a treat to listen to, these guys never rest on their laurels.
Mark is the Tremonster as usual, delivering the heavy chords and vibrato lead breakdowns you expect. I mean what else can you say about this master? Everyone recognizes this man for the 6(7 now) string monster that he is. Lets say he keeps impressing, even 12 years after his guitar awakening on One Day Remains wowed us.
The rhythm section is banging as well. Scott Phillip seems re energized on this record, bringing back some of that Blackbird energy he had. Their is so much cymbal play it may as well be foreplay. His tom play is also fantastic, smacking all along the toms and snare while smashing those cymbals in patterns that most drummers only reserve for warm up practice. You rarely hear Scott rely on the classic old high hat snare beat. He is all over the place and it awesome! His kick pedal hits some double bass, while also remaining intricate.
Brian though has always been a kind of hidden jem in this band. While never receiving near the attention he deserves, Brian has some of the best bass lines a modern bassist has ever thrown out. At times he is riffing with Mark and Myles simultaneously, matching the finger play of their leads with his deep five string bass. Other times he is walking the bass like no ones business, separately from the rest of the music in his own rhythm and other times he is bouncing around with Scotts frantic energetic drum patterns, and that's just in one song. Brian's deep bass tone leaves most bassists in the dust and has a smooth as hell tone as well. Though I still feel like his bass a bit under the volume, it's easily discernible and fantastic on The Last hero.
Myles of course returns with some fantastic vocal talent. His lyrics are a bit politically charged this time around, but wittingly vague enough to avoid political affiliation, while cutting deep into our political landscape with tons of insults towards the modern greed of our leaders and not just the presidential candidates. Vocally Myles has turned towards his Slash tone a bit more since Fortress, I'd say it's to have a bit more of an aggressive tone to his voice to match the intensity of the band. He still bounces along high notes that most vocalists save for that one epic note hold once per album and has really gathered confidence in his voice. Myles seems to sing in more of a higher register in this album, but his voice is fantastic and stands out as one of the best, if not the best, in rock today. His guitar ability, as mentioned above, has never been so well displayed either.
The album itself is a journey. The first half of the album leads you through some Blackbird era sound, more upbeat and quick tempo songs to jump too like The Writing on the Wall and My Champion. The second half of the album sees Alter Bridge hit harder than they ever have, matching and in many ways surpassing even Marks solo material in the heavy and shredding aspect. This Side of Fate and The Last Hero turns up that progressive metal to 10, featuring some of the best instrumental play on the record while Island of Fools, The Other Side and Poison In Your Veins turns up the heavy metal. If I could describe it, it has the harder edge guitars of Blackbird, the melody of One Day Remains, the heavyness of ABIII and the progressive leads of Fortress all wrapped up together to make an album that I think all Alter Bridge fans can finally agree on as the best Alter Bridge album to date. Scott, Brian, Mark and Myles have shattered the walls of what you think Alter Bridge should be while pushing their own ability to the next level.
(If you can grab up the Best Buy version as Breathe is an unreleased song from the One Day Remains album and is absolutely haunting and fantastic.)
While I enjoy both Myles and Mark doing their own thing on the side, Alter Bridge have such a great musical chemistry that it usurps all their side projects. The combined talent in this band, mixing together creatively, really shines out this time around and if you are an Alter Bridge fan, this album is an absolute must. If you haven't given Alter Bridge a chance, you're a fool. Pick this album up and bask in it's musicianship and vocal talent, because it doesn't get better than this son.
1. "Show Me a Leader" 5:05
2. "The Writing On the Wall" 4:28
3. "The Other Side" 5:55
4. "My Champion" 4:41
5. "Poison In Your Veins" 4:19
6. "Cradle To the Grave" 5:41
7. "Losing Patience" 4:10
8. "This Side of Fate" 6:48
9. "You Will Be Remembered" 4:42
10. "Crows On a Wire" 4:27
11. "Twilight" 4:15
12. "Island of Fools" 5:01
13. "The Last Hero" 6:42
Total length: 66:04
14. "Last of Our Kind"