I’ve been a fan of Alter Bridge since my time as a WWE fanatic when ‘Metalingus’ was the theme tune for Edge. I’ve also been a fan of Myles Kennedy since as long as I can remember due to his unique vocals, the calibre of bands and artists he’s performed with (at one point even auditioned for Led Zeppelin); so I’ve been looking forward to hearing Fortress for a while now. 3 years actually.
Opener ‘Cry Of Achilles’ sets the tone for the album from the start. The intro has a great 80’s rock feel to it and, as we expect by now, a great vocal from Myles showing off his impressive range. The bouncing drums drive the track along at 100mph and some nice palm-muted guitar work gives a solid feel to the track. This has got ‘set-opener’ written all over. At just over 6 minutes long it makes the most of every second and is best enjoyed at a fair volume. 2nd track ‘Addicted to Pain’ kicks off with a riff-heavy intro and some great guitar by Mark Tremonti working through the verses leading the track to power through at tremendous pace.
This is the best I’ve heard Myles Kennedy, and that’s saying something. ‘Bleed It Dry’ starts at the same furious pace but as it goes on the band slows the tempo down, displaying a more chilled stoner-rock vibe to the track’s sound.
A quarter of the way through the album, ‘Lover’ starts in ballad-mode. Some warm acoustic strumming and a whispered vocal; I wondered where this track was going. It’s a slow, melodic number with Tremonti showing off his ability once again. As expected the track explodes into a big chorus and never really slows down. It evolves into a stadium-rock number with some high-pitched vocals nailed perfectly.
‘The Uninvited’, despite sounding like a twee horror movie, has plenty of kick but slips down the “American Rock 101” route for me; straight down the line. ‘Peace is Broken’ takes us to the half-way point with some delightful thrash guitar work and the pace of earlier tracks still burning. It’s a big anthemic track and keeps the album roaring onwards. ‘Calm The Fire’ is a stand out track for the atmospheric intro. A slow burning start gives way to the typical Alter Bridge sound – big guitars, big vocals and plenty of distortion.
It’s worth mentioning at this point that there isn’t a song on the album that is less than 4 minutes in length; you’re getting your money’s worth here. On to ‘Waters Rising’ with lead vocals from Mark Tremonti this time stepping up to the plate and delivering an excellent account of himself. A loud, heavy track, it’s another classic Alter Bridge number but with a clean, dreamy guitar line throughout the verses giving way to much bigger sounds in the chorus. ‘Farther Than The Sun’, as far as intro’s go, is one of the heaviest on the album. Those big riffs make an appearance again and a rip-roaring solo delivers perfectly over the top of a band giving it their all.
‘Cry A River’ takes us to the last quarter of the album. Exploding into itself, the track (I would suggest not inspired by Justin Timberlake) has the sound of some earlier Alter Bridge material and sits well at this stage in the track-listing to keep the high-tempo going. ‘All Ends Well’ in honesty is pretty cheesy: “If you believe in nothing else, Just keep believing in yourself, There will be times of trouble, It’s gonna hurt like hell, This much I know, All ends well”. It feels a bit like ‘Hero’ (from the Spiderman OST) by Chad Kroeger and Josey Scott and I could see it being used in exactly the same way too.
In closing the album Alter Bridge bring title track ‘Fortress’ to the party and at 7:35 in length it has a lot to say. Warm guitar lines and arpeggios lead into the verses which explode into big choruses. At the 4 minute mark the track changes tempo (upwards, naturally) leading to some foot-on-the-monitor-lean-back-soloing. The solo sounds like it’s been waiting the entire album to escape making it well worth the wait. The solo gives way to a slower tempo to build in to the grand finale which closes off Fortress perfectly.