Alternative metal's most mainstream heroes are back with another record. Alter Bridge's fifth record The Last Hero attempts to make their sound even bigger and evil while still delivering its relevant political agenda.
The first thing about this record is its message. With the 2016 election dividing Americans so vastly and many caught in between the two candidates, there's a lack of trust in both of the candidates. The album's title is derived from that similar concept: "the last hero" being a hero in society amongst feelings of disillusionment amongst the world's current powers. So, Bernie?
Jokes aside, the album does definitely make a strong stance on the matter. It's heavy riffs and soaring vocals really provide an urgent view on the scenario. The first song on the record 'Show Me A Leader' is a good example, a creepy, semi-clean guitar intro leading into big riffs from Mark Tremonti and giant vocals from Myles Kennedy. The album's strength lies in these two things. There's really nothing beyond the big riffs and big vocals - 'The Writings On The Wall' follows up with much the same vibe as the song that preceded it, while 'The Other Side' sounds distinctly more evil and brooding, complete with a weird siren-sounding guitar effect.
Things start getting old by the time 'Poison In Your Veins' comes around, but the big riffs keep them from being fully boring. The album isn't completely riddled with these thick riffs, luckily. Some distinctly non-evil sounding songs add to the album's palette, like the uplifting 'My Champion' and the interesting guitars of 'Cradle To The Grave'.
The album does, admittedly, get interesting in its second half. It begins with the ballad 'You Will Be Remembered', starting acoustic then building up into a sweet, uplifting rock track. 'Crows On A Wire' follows up with crazy, thick riffs that take the track to nearly off-kilter thrash levels. The band then sounds like a metal version of U2 in 'Twilight', bright guitars above heavier rhythm. Then comes the epic 'Island Of Fools', starting with a dramatic guitar intro that leads into an awesome and confident track with immense vocals. The title track is one of the only tracks where the drumming from Scott Phillips can be appreciated for being interesting. The big riffs and nice bridge allow for another big moment before 'Last Of Our Kind' ends the album on a similarly big note.
The biggest disconnect, for me, at least, is the vocals. Kennedy definitely has a lot of strength and power as a vocalist, but there's something in how operatic and dramatic his voice is that makes it sound like he's a hair metal wannabe. There are moments on the record where it works well, but it just doesn't work for me as a whole. More specifically on the music itself, it just downright sounds like the band tried way too hard to sound bombastic and relevant. The formula of "we'll grab your attention with these big riffs in between vocals" is prevalent throughout the album. They took relevance over quality.
Alter Bridge is the bridge between modern metal and 80's hair metal. Sometimes that doesn't always work in their favor, though. The Last Hero is plagued by the divide between grandiose and relevancy in a way that would make Muse's The Resistance jealous. There's too much punch, not enough value. They're doing what they do best, but perhaps not to the best of their ability.
Favorite Tracks: Island Of Fools, The Side Of Fate, The Last Hero
Least Favorite Tracks: Poison In Your Veins, Cradle To The Grave
Rating: 68 / 100