Alter Bridge has evolved with each release thus far, so to say we are excited to see the progression of the band on their new release, Fortress, would be an understatement. After some time apart for a few different projects, Alter Bridge has rejoined forces and are ready to conquer the world, again. Fortress drops here in the US on October 8th.
Kicking off the album is “Cry of Achilles”. The flamenco-style guitar work that begins the album is a welcome, and surprising piece. About 30 seconds or so in, the band kicks the album into high gear with some crunchy guitar and bass work. Vocalist Myles Kennedy comes in with his trademark wail, which gives us the familiar sound and atmosphere that Alter Bridge is known for. A solid introductory piece to this album and a strong statement, that Alter Bridge is back.
The album’s first single, “Addicted to Pain”, is also the most radio friendly track. To me, there was nothing too special about this track, but it does fit with the classic sound the band has cultivated over the years. So to bridge the gap between this release and the last, it does it’s job. If I’m completely honest though, it’s the weakest track on the album. So if you enjoy this song, the rest of the album is going to kick your ass.
Alter Bridge – Addicted To Pain:
Thundering rhythms and chugging riffs define “Bleed it Dry“. While harking back to a sound more readily found on Blackbird, the track combines the more progressive vocal melodies that were found on ABIII. The chorus comes in with quite a jarring change, but somehow it works. A familiar, and fun song to sit back and soak in.
“Lover”, which is one of the more different songs on the album, begins with a quiet, almost acoustic chord structure. Myles whispers smoothly into your ears before some exceptionally beautiful, bluesy guitar soloing. One of the most ballad-like songs on the album, it reminds me of some 90s ballads, but yet it doesn’t at the same time. It’s really hard to explain, but make no mistake, the track is great.
“The Uninvited” opens up with an echoed guitar, and the vocals mimic the drops at first. This is another song that could be considered radio friendly, but it’s deceptively heavier than most everything you hear on the radio. I’m going to call this one simple heavy, as there are bursts and stops that bridge the sometimes simple structure.
“Peace is Broken” utilizes some familiar sounds from the early to mid 2000s rock and metal. That is where the rest of the similarities end. This song is PURE Alter Bridge. Soaring vocals, thundering bass, progressive drumming and a straightforward guitar make this a solid hard rock track. This track is also where I realized something a bit different in Myles Kennedy’s delivery. In the past, Myles has had a tendency to seemingly overindulge himself with his vibrato. I’m not sure if his work with Slash has helped him understand his craft better or what, but his vibrato is used much more as an accent, as opposed to a tiring staple. In my opinion, this change takes a very talented vocalist and elevates him to, what can now become, legendary status.
With a very MUSE-esque intro, Myles begins “Calm the Fire” in a falsetto with atmospherics in the background that sound eerily like they could have been found on Muse’s Black Holes and Revelations. Again, Myles is showcasing his voice, but it’s different this time around. It’s much more controlled and each note seemingly now has a purpose.This six-minute song is epic in scope, and definitely worth a dedicated listen.
Driven initially by chorus-heavy guitar work, Mark Tremonti opens “Waters Rising” in this rare duet where he takes lead vocals, while Myles takes the backup role. I had hoped this would happen, since Mark certainly proved he has the ability to step out front with his solo album and subsequent tours. An astounding change, but it absolutely 100% works with this song. Definitely one of the highlights of the album.
“Farther From the Sun” is one of the heavier numbers on Fortress. Mark Tremonti’s guitar tone is front and center. It’s heavy, it’s dark and it crushes you upon first listen. I can absolutely see this being a single and can not wait to witness it live. This song will also be one of your favorites, I’ll go ahead and settle that for you. Ha!
Thundering bass and percussion lead us off into “Cry a River”. This hard-hitting track takes off, steps on your throat and doesn’t let up. It’s obvious that by this point, Alter Bridge smells blood and is going for the kill. I can’t help but feel that this track echoes a bit of “Isolation” from ABIII. Which is certainly not a bad thing.
“All Ends Well” opens up into a slower number. We knew there was a ballad coming, and make no mistake about it, this song is definitely THE ballad on the album. Myle’s vocals just ooze emotion, while the solid song structure is filled with big ole power chords. This song has hit written all over it. Is an extremely well-balanced song, by all measures.
The album closer is the title track, “Fortress”. This is the most EPIC song on the album. Reminiscent of the way the song “Blackbird” was used as the title track of the album Blackbird, “Fortress” is the highlight of this album. The track is all about energy and the band commands it breathtakingly. The epic solo is, well…. epic. Tremonti really showcases his guitar talent, and it’s just bombastic and phenomenal. Perhaps it’s not the best solo Mark has ever played, but it’s definitely his most powerful and commanding. I can’t say enough about this track. It’s the perfect balance of all aspects within Alter Bridge.
In closing, this is the best album yet from Alter Bridge. Hands down. This is a strong candidate for album of the year. Not a single song sounds like filler, and they all have a distinctive sound, yet they seem to somehow meld together. Easily one of the darkest albums they have released, it’s a stellar effort, and one that beckons your listen.
Unsung Melody Score – 10 out of 10
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Preview or purchase Fortress below: