Alter Bridge – Fortress – Review

I have been meaning to do a few music-based posts of a few new albums I have been listening to but it only seemed fair to start with the band I have loved and followed since their formation 11 years ago and have had the privilege to see live and consequently named this blog (and every other form of social media I have) after one of their songs. Alter Bridge for me are just everything good about music. I’m going to write separate posts about Mark Tremonti and Myles Kennedy so for this post I’ll give a mention to Brian Marshall and Scott Phillips because it’s usually the bassist and the drummer who get the least recognition but for me, there is absolutely no separation between any of the members of this band. Not only are these two incredible musicians they are also amazing performers and that is something that has put Alter Bridge another level above the competition. They are unquestionably astounding live and every review I have ever read of them agrees with that. Obviously Foo Fighters and Metallica have been the two big names of Rock and Metal over the past 15+ years, especially when it comes to live performances on the biggest stages and events, but I just do not connect with them like I do with Alter Bridge.

Fortress is their fourth and most recent album and by far their most experimental but for me also their most cohesive. The whole album is just so perfectly put together and it just shows off everything they have to offer in 12 stunning songs. I don’t want to go into complete track by track analysis of the riffs and the vocals and everything else but when you have an album like this where every single song is so significant it’s quite difficult. Having said that I will pick out a few that stood out for me.

Cry of Achilles: I had to choose this first for two reason. Firstly the name of my blog. It isn’t my favourite Alter Bridge song but there are a lot of AB fans out there who got to some before I did which is something I can only be happy about. Secondly it is the opening track on the album and for me it feels like 9 years of Alter Bridge crammed in to one explosive, yet beautiful song. It has an acoustic instrumental, a short, soft rock electric guitar solo, and then a quicker, harsher, hard rock solo with Myles showing off his insane range with grace and power throughout. I listen to albums on shuffle a lot but the first time I listen to them, I always listen in order and this is the type of song you always want to start off with.

Addicted to Pain: The second track on the album (I swear I’m not doing them all) and the first single they released from the album and that was a decision that I could not have been happier about. Rock and metal bands always tone down one or two songs on the album to make them a bit more marketable to release them as singles. Alter Bridge have done it before with “Open Your Eyes” and “Rise Again”. Foo Fighters, Nickelback, Shinedown, Bring me the Horizon have all done it. Slash has done it in his work with Myles, it’s just a thing everyone does. It’s not a bad thing, they all need to make money to keep doing what they do so they need a single that a lot of people will buy. So it says a lot about the album that this song is the least risky song they had to put out as their first single because it’s just as experimental as the rest of the album.

Waters Rising – After ABIII, Myles went to work with Slash again and it opened the door for Mark Tremonti to finish and release his first solo album. I’ll talk about his solo work a bit more in a different post but his first album was fantastic. It was much heavier than anything Alter Bridge have done and he has a completely different voice to Myles. He has been so consistently good on backup vocals to both Myles and Scott Stapp in his Creed days that he deserved that solo success and consequently he deserved a lead vocal on an AB track. Waters Rising just added another dynamic to this already experimental album. As much as this sounds more like a sports term they have such strength in depth in this band. Myles and Mark are both world class guitarists, vocalists, and writers so there is just so much talent at their disposal.

Fortress: The final track on the album and the climax of brilliance and creativity. A lot of people labelled this as Fortress’s answer to Blackbird and there are similarities but it’s such a different song with such a different meaning. The length and epic solo in this song has similarities to Blackbird but this song conjoins with the rest of the album so well. It started with Cry of Achilles and explores everything Alter Bridge can do and comes round full circle back to something that is again, both explosive and beautiful. I think a lot of people might see this as a negative but I found this album to be quite self-indulgent and that is a massive difference to everything they have done before. I don’t think it lacks emotion or connection to the fans by any means it just doesn’t feel like any of the songs are specifically written to convey emotion or draw out specific emotions from the listener. However as I said I don’t find that to be a problem. I have no doubt that they are four very genuine people and as a group they have reached a stage where they want to showcase everything they have learnt and everything they are capable of and it makes for spectacular listening.

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