When Alter Bridge rose from Creed’s holy ashes in the early 2000s, they had to distance themselves from being labeled a pale imitation or Creed-like. It took the group until 2007’s lush Blackbird record to be embraced as something more than those two options. Since then, their sound has gotten darker, while not shying away from uplifting choruses or the occasional ballad. However, The Last Hero proves to be a lesser continuation of their last few records.
Alter Bridge have had such a stretch of critically acclaimed and commercially successful albums dating back almost a decade that they were bound to hit a bump. Their streak of pushing their albums over an hour was going to catch up with them eventually, as it does on The Last Hero. Filler isn’t something normally associated with the band, but there’s more of it on here than any of their prior records.
Most of the forgettable numbers, like the quasi-ballad “You Will Be Remembered” and the flat “Twilight,” are sandwiched in the album’s second half. They come after the grandiose “This Side of Fate,” a stunner that has the ambitious vibes of their title cut from Blackbird. That’s just one of a handful of far-reaching tracks, where the band steps away from their typical songwriting to stretch their creative boundaries. “Show Me a Leader” and “The Other Side” push across a majestic tone with orchestral accompaniment and lengthy guitar solos.
Speaking of guitar solos, Mark Tremonti is his usual jaw-dropping self. Tremonti’s sparky leads and twisty shredding keep the album from falling apart, as it comes close to doing several times. The confidence he has gained vocally through his solo project is reflected by the vocal harmonies between himself and lead singer Myles Kennedy. They make a strong unit, complementing each other without having one overwhelm the other. Their vocal chemistry has been building since AB III, and The Last Hero is a peak performance for both of them.
Cut out three or four tracks, get the running time to about 50-55 minutes, and The Last Hero would’ve been something spectacular, easily on par with their best record (at least in this writer’s opinion) Blackbird. Instead, this is a wonky combination of mature progression and deja vu-like retreads. The former is more prevalent than the latter, but the gap is far closer than it should be considering the pedigree of talent involved.
(released October 7, 2016 on Caroline Records)