Alter Bridge are truly rising like the phoenix. When Creed had burnt away the instrumental section found Myles Kennedy and eventually the world was introduced via debut ‘One Day Remains’. Despite criticisms of sounding too much like Creed, struggles with labels, and carving out their empire from scratch the band release ‘Blackbird’ sometime later. This release saw AB taken more seriously and opened many more doors. After huge success with ‘ABIII’, an attempted Creed revival, Myles’ affair with Slash, the solo band Tremonti, the band’s fourth album is finally upon us. And of course it’s fantastic.
The first music anyone heard off of ‘Fortress’ was lead single “Addicted To Pain”. Whilst perhaps initially it seemed to take a ‘generic metal’ approach it wasn’t too long into the first listen that people began to see it’s brilliance. Of course as a single it’s going to be subject to criticism but as an indicator to the album’s direction it sparked keen interest. The track when stacked up against the complete album is preceded by the phenomenal “Cry of Achilles” and too succeeded by “Bleed It Dry”. Despite the brutality of the opening few tracks it’s not all doom and gloom, in fact probably slightly more enlightening melodically than ‘ABIII’s opening few. “Bleed It Dry”‘s guitar solo draws on more blues influence, probably from Myles Kennedy’s hands, and this is repeated throughout several tracks. Mark Tremonti too brings in his influence, vocally, making the record play differently to others. This is on “Waters Rising” and whilst many may have thought it’d be an unused Tremonti track it has it’s own place here. “The Uninvited” is too a stand out track, notably dark and crammed with some tasty riffs and a great chorus. Riffs similar to that of “The Pot” by Tool to be specific. Where most bands would attempt to go for a more radio friendly and sanitised approach Alter Bridge instead have proven just how competent they are in making music arguably darker and definitely heavier than previous releases.
The softer sides of the album are perhaps it’s best moments, which says a lot. The first ‘ballad’ is “Lover”, a beautifully constructed song. Myles voice is at one of it’s peaks here and the instrumentation is exceptional. Simplistic yet captivating, echoes of Mayfield Four (study up) float within the veins of this song, as well as flashbacks to the incredible “Burn It Down” from the debut. “All Ends Well” taps into the same degree of emotion delivered in classic “Watch Over You” and “Wonderful Life”. A bright song but nonetheless filled with an important message and infinite degrees of passion. Levels of emotion and passion are not limited to ‘the ballads’, the title track is an elaborate journey throughout the various themes in the album. The softer passages, epic choruses, even a Sabbath sounding break down with dominating guitar solos. Definitely on the same level as “Blackbird” though in a different ballpark.
All tracks are longer than four minutes, a bold approach to what some call a ‘stadium rock band’. “Cry Of Achilles”, “Calm The Fire”, and “Fortress” all stretch 6 minutes or longer. However they flow by in the same mental time as a three minute single. It’s not easy to make a song so long so entertaining and gripping yet this proves the group are more than just ‘stadium rockers’ playing an array of hits to a pyro backing. They have a keen ear and know what works within a song and what doesn’t, every note is perfectly crafted and meant to be there.
All members are on top of their game. The two wonderboys will obviously get a lot of attention, deserved attention. Myles explores different styles, voicings and his power is ever present, listen to the start of “Calm The Fire” for a quick glimpse. His guitar playing too is top notch, under-rated in nearly all fields he resides. Mark Tremonti too lays down some fluent guitar solos and the pair concoct a batch of great guitar work. Despite the whole band being underrated (there’s that word again), no one is more underrated in a band than the rhythm section (unless you’re Rush). Brian Marshall on bass, and Scott Phillips are a great pairing and the backing is probably tighter than ever. There are several time signature changes which are never easy, they’re also brilliantly covered up to the point they’re hardly noticeable and give the songs that little extra kick.
All four of these members create a beautiful saga. ‘Fortress’ is another entry into a near impeccable volume of music and one that is sadly under appreciated currently. In a few years they’ll hopefully be remembered like Led Zeppelin but for now their cult following should be grateful for their return. After revivals of Creed, solo bands and tours with Slash the fans finally have their treasure back and enjoy it they should. Held within ‘Fortress’ is some of the best song writing of the modern age, just embrace it.
Verdict – 5/5 Stars