This Friday, Alter Bridge will release their fifth studio album, The Last Hero. It’s the band’s first studio album in three years, as lead singer Myles Kennedy took time to collaborate and tour with Slash on World on Fire, and guitarist Mark Tremonti record and toured for his second solo album, Cauterize. This release will also be Alter Bridge’s first since signing to European metal label Napalm Records in June.
Alter Bridge has released one track from the album as a single so far—the leadoff track, “Show Me a Leader,” which they put out in July. The track opens with a soft, clear guitar melody that soon breaks into the gritty riffs and quick drumbeat that’s become signature to their sound. The song sets the lyrical tone for the rest of The Last Hero, which is by far the band’s most political work yet. Lyrics like “Show me a leader that won’t compromise / Show me a leader so hope never dies,” are representative of the tension felt in the United States and the world. The band maintains this lyrical tone throughout the album—in “Writing on the Wall,” which Kennedy wrote about climate change denial, in “This Side of Fate,” (“What have we done? / There’s nowhere to run”), and in “In Twilight” (“Hope for a future worth saving now”), most notably.
But for all the darkness and intensity of the album, one thing Alter Bridge fans can always count on is the band’s ability to regroup for an uncharacteristic moment of candid optimism and reassurance—tunes like ABIII’s “Life Must Go On” and Fortress’ “All Ends Well” may come to mind. And in The Last Hero, that moment shines through in “My Champion.” The song is musically deliberate, exchanging their usual thick post-grunge/progressive metal sound for clean guitar and a straightforward beat. Lyrically, Kennedy offers encouraging words: “Sometimes you fall before you rise / Sometimes you lose it all to find / You’ve gotta keep fighting and get back up again.”
Throughout the album, the band finds that sweet, signature balance between an impressively harsh rhythmic section (see “Island of Fools” for some of bassist Brian Marshall and drummer Scott Phillips’ best work on the album) and virtuosic vocals and guitar (Tremonti’s solos in “This Side of Fate” and “Crows on a Wire” are particularly awe-inspiring). Musically, The Last Hero is a solid work, offering nothing unexpected, but certainly nothing to scoff at—the kind of album that will leave returning fans satisfied and new listeners eager to hear their earlier releases.
This is a band whose dark, heavy instrumentation and unforgivingly biting vocals have powered them through four critically acclaimed albums so far. And with success like that, they’re not likely to change their formula anytime soon. But this is an album of political lyrical content written in urgency, desperation, and honesty. It’s an album written to rally around, and that’s what sets it apart from their previous work. The final track closes with the ominous words: “Though it’s much too late, this I hope to see / There is still a chance left for you and me,” and with that notion flowing through the entire album, The Last Hero may be Alter Bridge’s most important work yet.