Alter Bridge, ‘Fortress’ – Album Review
Inviting music fans to an intimate look inside the walls of their formidable ‘Fortress,’ Alter Bridge kick off their new disc with the epic tale of ‘Cry of Achilles.’ By design, the track sets the tone for what’s to come: a collection of tracks that push new boundaries for the intrepid melodic rock act. The daring song arrangements experiment just enough to open up a whole new world of audible opportunities all while offering up enough familiarity to not exclude longtime fans. While this is no easy feat, Alter Bridge manage to find the delicate balance of quietly evolving without erasing any of the past.
It’s hard to imagine that the songwriting duo of lead singer Myles Kennedy and guitarist Mark Tremonti have time to sleep, never mind write a new disc with all of their combined projects. With that in mind, the two, along with talents of Brian Marshall on bass and Scott Phillips on drums, have elevated their creative forces once again producing a disc that truly comes to life, screaming out to be performed live.
With the band members having gone on record insisting that moving from one musical endeavor to the next only intensifies their creative juices, ’Fortress’ puts that sentiment to the test, with Alter Bridge coming out the victor. Much of the magic of ‘Fortress’ took place during pre-production as the band flexed their musical muscles experimenting with new arrangements and even changing time signatures with producer Michael “Elvis” Baskette at the helm, pushing them to their limits all the way.
Highlighting a few of the standout tracks, the first single ‘Addicted to Pain’ is a straight-forward screaming rocker with blazing guitar riffs and melody driven choruses. Although this song isn’t too far off of the beaten path for Alter Bridge compared to several of the other new tunes, it is a perfect radio-ready track.
Kennedy’s vocals have long been praised as a keen purveyor of raw emotion but the band has found yet another vehicle to get their message across. On ‘Bleed it Dry’ Tremonti is unleashed, serving up unequivocally one of the most moving and transcendent guitar solos we’ve heard from him. It shows off not only his technical skills but his restraint and ability to harness the beauty within the song note by note.
The album takes an unexpected yet welcomed turn with ‘Lover.’ Simply put, this is not your mother’s power ballad. While softer in tone, the song conjures up a maelstrom of deep despair and dark betrayal. Kennedy shines throughout, his lyrics emotive and forlorn; in a way only he can deliver.
On ‘Waters Rising,’ Tremonti gets to step into the spotlight as a lead vocalist. After singing all the leads on his solo project, this seemed like a logical next step in the evolution of Alter Bridge. The results are a dynamic tune that combines the full arsenal of Tremonti’s musical weapons with the added bonus of Kennedy’s harmonies throughout the chorus perfectly complementing the song.
‘Farther Than the Sun’ is another blistering, heavy-hitter with a theme of defiance and liberation; it translates well to the overall spirit of rock ‘n’ roll.
Another standout track is ‘All Ends Well,’ a sweeping, melodic rock anthem that is the core basis of what Alter Bridge was built upon. Paying homage to their roots, the profound song, which Kennedy has said is written from a mother’s perspective, touches upon the fear and uncertainty the world can sometimes breed, providing a universal message that we can all relate to on some level.
The album concludes with the title track ‘Fortress,’ a perfect bookend to the epic tale that is ‘Cry of Achilles.’ The band has called ‘Fortress’ the most experimental song on the record, featuring deep, bottomless textures, time changes and the perfect culmination of all the risks they took on this disc.
Although Alter Bridge’s sound embodies many of the signature elements made popular by melodic rock bands that came before them, the substance and technicality that they have immersed into their music have elevated them to a whole new level. ‘Fortress’ proves to be the next impressive chapter in an epic adventure that shows no sign of ending any time soon.