Saturday, 26 October 2013

Alter Bridge "Fortress"

I wish I had this blog in November of 2010. If I had it then I would have been able to write an article on Alter Bridge’s AB III, and I would have written about how it was one of the greatest albums I had ever heard. I may have even written how I believed it was the best or second best all around album released since the turn of the millennium. I thought that after first listen, and three years later I STILL think that.

I discovered Alter Bridge rather late, I suppose. When Slash released his debut solo album, the one with the different numerous guest musicians and singers guest performing on each song, I was taken aback by Myles Kennedy. Not only was his voice tremendous, but he’s the only singer who sings on more than one song on that album. We’re talking about an album that features Ozzy Osbourne and Chris Cornell, but Slash decided to let Myles sing more than one song. That impressed me beyond belief. He was, however, the only of the singers that I didn’t previously know (well, technically I did know of him, after I eventually found out that he was in the movie Rockstar). After a few months of listening to that debut solo album of Slash’s I finally remembered to check out this band “Alter Bridge” which Myles apparently sang for. That was not long after the release on AB III, so that was the first album I chose to listen to by them, and I was immediately hooked.

Myles doesn’t take all the credit for my personal acclaim for the album. The musicians behind him, most specifically guitarist Mark Tremonti, showed that they are probably the leaders in modern music at making albums that sound like absolutely nothing else ever released. This includes the bands first two albums, 2004’s One Day Remains and 2007’s Blackbird. This trend continues with their recently released fourth album Fortress, released after the band members really didn’t have much of a break at all; Mark released and toured in support of his solo album All I Was and Myles was good and busy being the permanent singer for Slash’s solo band, and even releasing another album in which Myles sang on all songs.

The band is one of those not easy to categorize bands. I guess the term alternative metal fits. They’ve always had a rather heavy back tone with Myles’ multiply capable voice. On Fortress, I find the music to be just as heavy as all previous albums, to please existing fans, but I also find it to be all around louder, which excited me immediately. The opening track Cry of Achilles starts off with the sound of a dark acoustic guitar, but eventually blasts into the off-beat alternative metal that Alter Bridge has done so well so many times before, mixing volume with melody like none other.

The first song released from the album was Addicted to Pain, which is the second track on the album. This song alone I think is heavier than many to any song the band has ever recorded. It has a nice fast beat to it, adding diversity to the album and the band repertoire. Bleed It Dry continues the very loud sound that the band seems to have adopted. The song reminds me of Coming Home from their Blackbird album in that it is for the most part a slow paced, borderline middle paced song that has spurts of heavy cries and bashing backbeats that fill out the song and make it even harder to categorize. Then there’s the slow bluesy guitar solo. I don’t know how anyone could have pulled that off, but leave it to Mark Tremonti.

One thing AB III had that made it so good was its transition from heavy alternative metal songs to slow and dark songs, as well as a couple of ballads, I love a band who isn’t afraid to release ballads, especially more than one on an album. Albeit AB III was 16 tracks long, including the two bonus tracks, so it had room for two ballads. Fortress’s first transition from heavy alternative metal to slow and dark songs starts with the song Lover. The song is a five minute epic, the first minute and a half or so being mostly acoustic with Myles singing low, practically whispering; a technique he’s done on numerous occasions that I LOVE. Then the rest of the band kicks in at full swing, including the songs bridge, which is probably the most heartfelt moment on the album. It should be pointed out that this song is NOT a ballad.

The Uninvited and Peace is Broken bring the album back in to Alter Bridge-patented swing. I mentioned previously that their songs are off-beat. I meant that literally. Drummer Scott Phillips has always been a rather underrated drummer. He once stated that he bases his drum beats based on what Mark comes up with on guitar, which can sometimes be hard because Mark comes up with some strange and unheard of guitar parts. To have the capability to be able to backbeat such progressive rhythms, and not be properly commemorated for it is just not right.

The one and only slightly weak moment of the album is Waters Rising. No disrespect to Mark Tremonti’s singing capabilities; if you’ve heard his solo album All I Was, you’d know he has a pretty good singing voice that can hold its own, but the first Alter Bridge song chosen to feature him as the main lead singer (the closing track on AB III had him and Myles sharing lead vocals) wasn’t the best choice to fit his vocal style. Musically the song is as good as anything the band has ever done, but the verses of the song just sound too fast. He actually sounds a bit nervous to me. He sounds most comfortable during the second and third chorus, where he harmonizes with his own voice. The higher harmony is exactly what I’d expect from his vocal capabilities, instead he choice a lower laid back sound when singing the verses which just doesn’t sit well with me.

Father Than The Sun and Cry A River once again bring the album back to an Alter Bridge standard of normal before the album once again changes directions into All Ends Well; the albums only ballad. The ballad that the band decides to play live religiously is Watch Over You, from the Blackbird album, but I’ve always found that the band has much better ballads to play instead of that. All Ends Well just adds to that list. The band just seems to find ways to make better and better ballads that get more and more heartfelt and powerful as their career progresses.

The album ends with the album’s title track, Fortress; the albums longest song. The band has several songs that clock in at over six-minutes, five of them if I’m not mistaken, and all of these songs sound different from each other. They all have different influences to their sound, different changes, some of them are predominantly slow paced, while others, like Fortress, maintain a pretty steady pace throughout. It’s the songs thrash metal-esque breakdown/guitar solo and subsequent bridge that make the song the seven + minute epic that it is. Just like all of their long songs, it doesn’t lose its listeners attention and ends makes for one of the best closing tracks from any album released all year.

While the album Fortress continues the bands trend of never releasing two albums that sound the same, I find the album has similarities to Blackbird, only louder and better. I’ve come to find that many bands find Blackbird to be the sound that best defines the band. While I disagree that this should be the case, I don’t see how any fan can have any problem whatsoever with the bands output on their fourth album, which I believe is among the best albums released all year. Going back to how I introduced this article, had I wrote about AB III, I would have given the album a rare 10/10 rating without hesitation. I will, however, hesitate to do so with this album for the time being, but that can always change.


Calm The Fire” -­ I would have to say Calm The Fire is one of the best songs Alter Bridge has ever recorded, not simply because it sounds terrific, but just the general stages that it goes through. Starting off acoustically and, what I like to call, apocalyptically, sounding like the beginning of the end of the world. Then changing in to an instrument filled epic with walls of guitars, both bass and electric, and over-dubbing of vocals that make Myles’ voice sound like it is coming from everywhere. The song is one of the slower paced songs on the album, but that’s not immediately noticeable.


9.5 (Out of 10)

Track List:

"Cry of Achilles"  
"Addicted to Pain"  
"Bleed It Dry"  
"The Uninvited"  
"Peace Is Broken"  
"Calm the Fire"  
"Waters Rising"  
"Farther than the Sun"  
"Cry a River"  
"All Ends Well"  

1 comment:

  1. Great review, I agree with the majority of the statements that you have made in the article. I think that ABIII is sometimes underrated in comparison to Blackbird.