You have to hand it to Alter Bridge, they absolutely, categorically refuse to rest on their laurels.
Blazing out the gates with the anthemic and formative One Day Remains, sophomore album Blackbird saw frontman Myles Kennedy apply his own learned guitar techniques to proceedings, revamping the very way the band write songs, netting them the 'Greatest Guitar Solo of All Time' accolade from Guitarist Magazine.
Third album AB III brought with it a darker edge, and 2013's Fortress amped up the instrumental possibilities of what all four members could do, with the off-kilter opening riff of Cry Me a River or the sweeping Cry of Achilles truly showing off what the 'Alter Bridge sound' had evolved into.
However, all of that pales in comparison to The Last Hero, which is by far their most ambitious record yet. When talking to guitarist Mark Tremonti earlier this year, he made a big point of not wanting to repeat himself, always striving to do new things and encompass new techniques.
That's resulted in the near-seven minute long structural powerhouse that is This Side of Fate, six minute The Other Side and twin five/six minute closers, Island of Fools and title track, The Last Hero. AB still kick out a number of high-octane and above-all fun tracks to prove they can always deliver, but for newcomers and AB devotees alike, know that The Last Hero is an experimental step forward, one that only pays off the more you drink it in.
Let's break down the tracks. I've ranked them in order of personal choice, but let me know your own favourites in the comments once you've had a few (hundred) listens.
The theme across the board for The Last Hero is that of literal heroes - be they world leaders, military officials, parents, influential figures, etc. To that end, a ton of the material on the album delves into what it means to take on the responsibility of such a role, and thematically, The Writing on the Wall sits nicely next to Fortress' Bleed it Dry when it comes to addressing 'the powers that be'.
A raucous, almost militant drumbeat clatters away underneath a brilliant stop-start riff, the whole piece serving to form an environmental message - one that takes aim at those who refuse to put appropriate procedures in place to prevent further global degradation.
It's fairly heavy stuff, and such a dark tonality will remind fans of AB III, the band's concept album that dealt with one individual losing themselves in negative thoughts, before eventually being saved through inner strength.
Listen out for: The neat repeating riff at 2:44.