Released: Sep 25, 2013
Genre: Alternative Metal, Heavy Metal, Hard Rock
Number Of Tracks: 12
Alter Bridge at this point just seems to be pumping out solid music, and they continue to do so with the release of "Fortress."
FortressFeatured review by: UG Team, on october 07, 2013 5 of 9 people found this review helpful
Sound: Alter Bridge was formed in 2004, and since that time they've began building a respectable name for themselves. Notably, as far as furthering their name outside of the band, vocalist Myles Kennedy has worked with Slash on two albums and guitarist Mark Tremonti has released a very popular guitar DVD. "Fortress" is the band's fourth full-length studio release and contains 12 tracks with a runtime of just under 63 minutes. The lead single from the album, "Addicted to Pain" was released in August 2013.
The album starts with the track "Cry of Achilles" which begins with some "acoustic shred," but soon enough the heavy guitar comes in and builds to a relentless rhythm driving the whole song forward. The lead single, "Addicted to Pain," is next up and is another really driving song - this early on in the album I realized most of the songs were going to be really driving tracks. "Bleed It Dry" has one of the coolest riffs from the album with a syncopated feel going on. "Lover" has some fairly clean guitar in the intro and has a blues inspired lead guitar part that repeats occasionally through the song. The interesting thing on this track is that the vocals during the verses on the song don't sound like Myles Kennedy to me – is that possibly Mark Tremonti singing? "The Uninvited" starts with some seriously processed guitar and an interesting vocal thing going on, then the heavy riffing comes in – the drums sound sublime on this track. "Peace Is Broken" has possibly the fastest tempo of any song on the album, with a lot of tremolo picking going on. "Calm the Fire" once again starts with clean acoustic guitar and finds Myles singing in a very high register during the intro. The song builds to an "epic" type of feel, with Myles voice really projecting with some serious power. "Waters Rising" is really a pretty quirky song for the album, and is actually sang by Mark Tremonti. You can tell he's been working on his vocals when compared to his recent solo vocal outings. "Cry a River" is another track that is really coming straight out of the gate running, with a lot of drive to it. "Farther Than the Stream" has an interesting type of feel to it, reminding me of some more modern extreme metal than most of Alter Bridge's stuff, except of course with Myles Kennedy's clean vocals, then with a standard hard rock chorus. "All Ends Well" is another track boasting an acoustic or clean intro, and has the most optimistic vibe of any song on the album. The album closes out with the title track "Fortress" which has a cool "Santana-ish" lead part early in the song, and then one of the strongest solos of the album a little later. Brian Marshall and Scott Phillips held down the beat like champs, and occasionally had some very standout moments. // 8
Lyrics: Myles has a unique voice, and that voice really gets a workout on the album. As a counterpoint, my brother who is a big fan of Alter Bridge said he couldn't even listen to this album because he is tired of Myles' voice, so maybe it can get old to some people. Personally, I believe he is one of the best voices in modern hard rock. Mark Tremonti also provided lead vocals for "Waters Rising," and has shown some serious vocal growth since his last solo vocal efforts that I've heard. As a sample of the lyrics, here are some from the title track, "Fortress": "Am I lost to wander forever/ Perhaps for the rest of my days? / If all that has been surrounded will just go to waste/ You left me out in the distance/ To wander this world on my own / Sometimes it's so hard to admit it but I can’t let you go/ I can't let you go." // 8
Overall Impression: Just to be straight up, I'm not that huge of an Alter Bridge fan, but this album impressed me from beginning to end. I've had discussions with people who seem to think that Mark Tremonti is over-rated, and I guess that depends on if you are trying to think of him as a modern shred genius or a guitarist who is prepared to serve the song. What I hear on this album is Mark Tremonti playing flawlessly while playing to serve the song. It is actually reminiscent to me of the criticism that Slash gets, and while Slash isn't Steve Vai he has always served the song. My favorite tracks from the album are probably "Cry of Achilles," "Calm the Fire," and "All Ends Well." This was a solid effort by the entire band and a great album. // 8
sorenguitar12, on october 14, 2013 5 of 6 people found this review helpful
Sound: So. Alter Bridge's anticipated fourth album has just come out, and after reading some pretty vague and downright uninformative reviews on the internet by people who obviously don't know the band very well at all, I've decided to take it upon myself to talk about "Fortress." The recording quality of this album is on par with "ABIII," if not a little better.
The musicality is top notch, the song writing is BETTER than "ABIII" and emotion is genuine and amazingly deep. In my opinion, the previous AB albums have had many dead spots peppered with moments of sheer brilliance and epic writing (I'm looking at you songs such as "Break Me Down," "Brand New Start," "Make It Right" and "Down to My Last). Gone! Are the cliched fillers and the I, V, vi, IV chord progressions. This album is pure Alter Bridge concentrate: from the colossal bass of Brian Marshall, to the rhythmic precision of Scott Phillips, the banshee vocals (and impeccable guitar playing-but we'll get to that later) of Miles Kennedy and the pure shred modern rock tone of Mark Tremonti.
Before I launch into a track by track, I'd like to just say, this album feels like more of a natural progression from "All I Was" (Tremonti's solo album) than "ABIII." The riffs are darker heavier and definitely thrash inspired. Moving on...
1. "Cry of Achilles" - Wow. So I thought "Slip to the Void" was the greatest album opener ever... But I was wrong. Oh so wrong. This song grabs you by the balls from the get go with an amazingly delicate nylon string melody, which is then taken and metamorphosised into a brutal hard rock riff. The chorus of this animal is unbelievable, chilling with nuances of hope in the world ("something beautiful is still alive"). Miles dives in with the first guitar solo, and Tremonti tops of the song with an outro solo which is probably my favourite on the album. His sweeping ascending chromatic minor appregios are something we've never quite heard from Tremonti, and it's a very fresh lick to kick off the album. So... All down hill from here right? Not quite...
2. "Addicted to Pain" - Clocking in at 4.16 (the third shortest song on the album), theres a reason why this was released as the first single. "Addicted to Pain" is a really good indicator of what the album is like, it's similar to "Isolation" (and "ABIII") in this regard. The "drop" to half time in the chorus is massive, the guitar solo is also very cool and the riff is incredibly reminiscent of Tremonti's thrash influences.
3. "Bleed It Dry" - Continuing in the thrash tradition, "Bleed It Dry"'s main riff sounds like we've stepped into a Children Of Bodom/Trivium album. You've never heard alter bridge play this hard before... I was half expecting metalcore screaming to follow. The breakdown in this song is very powerful, and definitely my favourite part. Tremonti's melodic and bluesy solo is fantastic. However, this isn't really my favourite track on the album. Honorable mention to its cool 3/4 verse.
4. "Lover" - Now for a change in mood completely! Lover was the song that I thought would be a filler, but turns out to be one of my favourites (there are many surprises like this on the album). I'm a huge fan of Miles' previous band Mayfield Four and this song is like stepping in a beautiful time machine. The vocals in the verses are super eerie with the song building up and packing a punch by the emotion filled ending. The absence of guitar solo and hard riffs is a nice dynamic compared to the previous three tracks.
5. "The Uninvited" - So from thrash, to Mayfield Four, to Tool... Just kidding. Of course comparisons will be drawn between the main riff and Tool, but I feel this is unfair considering the rest of "Uninvited" is pure Alter Bridge awesomeness. Another great anthemic chorus, with the bridge featuring a fantastic math rock breakdown. The changing time feels in the verse really make this song something different.
6. "Peace Is Broken" - This song is kind of an odd one for me. I've listened to it at least 15 times in the last couple of days so it's definitely had time to grow on me... But it hasn't. I really want to like it... But at this point on the album the riff and feel of the song feels more of the same. So to me, this is the first real "filler" track of the album. I really do like the tempo and the layering of the verse though... I just don't think it's as good of a song as it could be.
7. "Calm the Fire" - So, after the last song, "Fortress" needed a game changer. And here it is, in the amazing masterpiece that is "Calm the Fire." We open again with a nylon string, and Miles pulling out those early Jeff Buckley influences again. It then builds through very innovative use of the suspension chord into one of the coolest motifs on the album which climaxes in Miles and Mark playing two contrasting riffs against each other. The verse is very similar in feel to songs like "I know it hurts" and the prechorus definitely packs a punch. It's the meaty half time drop of the chorus which made me go "HOLY S*** THIS KICKS A-S" on the first listening with the almost spat tag of "all we need is a little love". Simple, yet amazingly written song, probably my favourite vocal performance by Miles on the album.
8. "Waters Rising" - I was a little worried about Tremonti getting his own song, especially after Chris from Muse kind of made "2nd Law" stop dead for two tracks and make me lose interest completely. But I'm happy to say that this short outing doesn't ruin the flow of the album at all. It is probably in my mind another "filler" song, but at this point I dont really care because I'm still getting over how amazing calm the fire is. Miles comes in during the breakdown and saves the song at the end in an awesome way.
9. "Farther Than the Sun" - In previous AB albums, things begin to dip into more fillers here, but instead we get a sickly drop B Deftones riff... Cool? You bet! This song really swings in an interesting way and the duel solo by Miles and Mark is ridonculous. I couldn't even tell who was who, which really does say something for the was Miles tackles his solos on this album. Finally I identified the more appregiated jazz influences of playing "through the chords" that Miles is known for and was amazed that his solo was my favourite one! Both are kick ass though, tremonti does some radical things I've never heard done so tastefully.
10. "Cry a River" - With this title I was expecting a ballad. I was pleasantly surprised... And I wouldn't be shocked if this or "Lover" would be the next single. It's the shortest on the album and really packs a punch. Just a great riff, a great hook and another fantastic Alter Bridge song! There is a lot of anger in the lyrics, as well as bitterness.
11. "All Ends Well" - Yet another suprise! I was here expecting a "Life Must Go On" styled I, V, vi, IV tune (AB do a lot of these in the past), but nope! Just another clever chord progression with another amazing vocal performance by Miles. The melody of this song gets stuck in my head, and man does he sing high in this one.
12. "Fortress" - Obviously a lot of people will compare this to "Blackbird," and this is a fair call. Both songs open very similar, they both have anthemic chorus's with the tag buried in there, but I think fortress is a great closer for the album. The double time section was quite a shock and again, the duel solos are just top notch musicality. The fade outs towards the end were a little odd though. When the song finished I was left with a feeling of "oh... Thats it?" It really left me wanting more... I guess thats a good thing? // 9
Lyrics: By now we all know Miles Kennedy. He is a machine. Everything he brings melodically is amazing, so we don't really need to talk about that. His lyrics on the first two albums were kind of hit and miss for me, but since "ABIII" I think he's been given a lot more of a creative leash from Tremonti, and it definitely shows. The lyrics are themed to the album, a lot darker and quite heavy with themes of loss, despair and confusion in love. I feel that whilst "Blackbird" seemed like a very optimistic album, "ABIII" seemed like somebody's struggle and disillusionment with religion, faith and the world. "Fortress" seems more personal... As though it's about the pain we feel when we are at odds with people we love. "Cry of Achilles" has the optimistic feel of "something beautiful is still alive" and the rest of album seems to try to debunk this (aside from "All Ends Well"-optimistic and about that although things in life hurt we live on at the end of the day). The song "Fortress" seems to sum up the central thesis of the album, which in my opinion is this: we create a fortress in our mind of memories and ideas from the past that we need to hold onto before making judgement and causing pain to the ones we love. However, what happens when this fortress is broken? I dunno. Something like that. // 8
Overall Impression: To conclude, Alter Bridge are probably my favourite modern rock band of this new generation. They are fantastic writers, musicians and players of their instruments. Another thing I really respect Alter Bridge for is being able to respect good songwriting over technical prowess (Dream Theater anyone?... No?). Everything on this album feels refined, organic and natural. The three year wait since "ABIII" has been totally worth it and I cant wait to see this band again and again touring these new songs (it'll be interesting to see which ones they include live). I'm not going to rate this against the other albums because I feel they're all different, but personally "Fortress" is my favourite now. The stand out tracks in my opinion are "Cry of Achilles," "Addicted to Pain," "Calm the Fire," "Farther Than the Sun," "Cry a River" and "Lover." In saying this, there are only really 2 filler tracks (on previous albums there are usually like 4 - BIG IMPROVEMENT!) These guys have produced another incredible album which will live on for years to come and I really hope this propels our favourite little band into the stratosphere! // 9
alees68851, on october 25, 2013 4 of 5 people found this review helpful
Sound: The future of Alter Bridge was in considerable doubt after the 2010 release, "ABIII." Founding member and guitarist Mark Tremonti turned his attention to his other band, Creed embarking on a tour, as well as releasing a solo album "All I Was" (2012). Lead vocalist Myles Kennedy started a project with "Slash" and "The Conspirators," releasing "Apocalyptic Love" and touring (2012). Drummer Scott Phillips joined a new band called Projected with members from Sevendust and Submersed. Despite all of this, they entered the studio in January 2013 and intermittently between tours with their respective projects, began recording Alter Bridge's 4th studio album - "Fortress."
Would they be able to produce another solid album like "Blackbird," or would other projects get in the way? One thing is for sure, they have not skimped on this album, which has many different styles of music throughout the 12 tracks, varying from soft acoustic, hints of speed metal, and heavy metal.
The album opens up beautifully with "Cry of Achilles." Tremonti finger picking some Spanish style guitar lick, before the emphatic head banging riff and thudding drums kick in. A sense of warmth and comfort overwhelms you when you hear Myles Kennedy sing, and even though AB aren't as popular as Creed once was, they are still one of few rock bands that knows how to make a proper rock record. This song is a 6 minute musical phenomenon and introduces us to an album which will please Alter Bridge fans in the fact that all the songs are pounding and heavy as opposed to the mix that we get on "One Day Remains."
"Addicted to Pain" was released as a single on August 12th 2013, the song moves like a bullet and has lyrical staying power as well as a jazz style solo. This song is probably the most impactful of any AB track for me. "Farther Than the Storm" has a very dark guitar tone, and is one of the many heavy tracks on the album. This song is heavier than the "Wrecking Ball" Miley Cyrus is straddling naked in her new shitty video. The bridge and solo is so emphatic with fast guitar riffs and an even darker tone. "All Ends Well" is not quite as memorable as the other songs, but has a typical Alter Bridge feel to it. Slow intro building up to feel epiphanous. Final track "Fortress" clocks in at 7:36, blood pumping guitar duel type riffs, and great vocal harmony, it seems like Tremonti and Kennedy decided to have a guitar-off, but the song is brilliant and held together by some tight drumming by Scott Phillips. // 9
Lyrics: Kenndy's vocals are probably the best they have ever been, and are perfect throughout the album. He hits every note spot on and it never feels forced as well as putting so much emotion into his singing. Just listen to track 4 "Lover" for proof. It starts off acoustic and is lead by some of the best singing to be heard on a rock album. It is the only really soft song on the album. "Waters Rising" has vocals lead superbly by Mark Tremonti. This song has a typical Alter Bridge feel to it, and that can only be a good thing. It is well constructed, the body of the song is built around Tremonti singing aggressively "Don't Let Me Drown" before a riff that seems to sound as if someone is thrashing about trying to gasp for air. // 10
Overall Impression: This is Alter Bridge's heaviest and most intense album yet, as they have put every effort into making a powerful, diverse set of well-constructed, thick-bodied, pounding tracks that are pleasing to any rock and metal fan. All these guys want to do, is rock hard and they want you to join in.
"Fortress" is a sensational, solid Alter Bridge album, and will be loved by the older fans, and newer fans. You will need jaw re-alignment, change of pants and your ears checked as It features some of their best work specifically from Kennedy. Alter Bridge for me, are under-rated. They seem to be flying under the radar a bit. "Fortress" however, should keep their rock God status alive, and worthy of my highest overall rating yet. // 9
jaybrink10101, on october 31, 2013 3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Sound: Alter Bridge has a track record of being a phenomenally talented band who are generally considered to be underrated in the music world, except by those who really, really didn't like Creed and fail to see the difference between the two bands.
For those unfamiliar with Alter Bridge, their debut album One Day Remains definitely had a Creed feel to it, whilst 2007's masterpiece "Blackbird" melded the jazzy guitar chops of vocalist Myles Kennedy to the already mega-talented shred king Mark Tremonti to create a phenomenally good, heavy and yet melodic album. "ABIII" showed a slightly different side of the bands and is generally considered to be a step down on "Blackbird," mostly because it had a slightly less progressive feel, although it did introduce Mark Tremonti to the microphone for a duet with Kennedy in "Words Darker Than Their Wings" and put Kennedy in the lead guitar spot a few times.
Since the release of "ABIII," Myles has been touring with Slash and Tremonti has released and toured a solo record, and so I was looking forward to seeing what "Fortress" would offer up.
The first thing about "Fortress" that I instantly noticed is that it's really, really heavy. I would say that at first listen through, I found it less listenable than the previous two, mostly because the melodies are more original, the chord progressions more progressive, and the riffs using more accidentals, but after a few more listens it really became clear that Fortress is a giant leap forward for Alter Bridge. They've pushed forward their musicality, the singing, and the songwriting.
Myles subtle texturing which was so prevalent in Blackbird and "ABIII" seems to have been largely dropped in favour of Tremonti's crushingly heavy riffs. There are lots more little gems served up throughout the album - the classical guitar intro in "Cry of Achilles," Tremonti's lead vocals on "Waters Rising," the original sounding "Lover," and the movie soundtrack in "Calm the Fire" which should satisfy not only Alter Bridge's biggest fans, but also their biggest critics.
01. "Cry of Achilles": This song starts off with an awesome fingerpicked classical guitar line which quickly drops into a typical accidental-ridden crushing metal riff from Tremonti. This song boasts a couple of my favourite riffs of the album - there's a section which shifts to a 3/4 feel, which I love – as well as a couple of clean sections, an intriguing chorus, a bass-heavy bridge, and a memorable middle section.
02. "Addicted to Pain": This was the album's single, and you can fairly easily see why. It's basically a collection of high-voltage riffage from Tremonti, some fantastic vocals from Kennedy, a great solo, and the typically brilliantly tight rhythm section. There's nothing really stand-out about this track on paper, but it's really a solid effort from start to finish.
03. "Bleed It Dry": This is heavy. Very heavy. It has a crushing odd-metre riff to kick off with, through a great verse and straight into a fantastically heavy chorus laden with chromatic accent notes. The clean bridge is the last thing I expected, and was initially a bit disappointing before a jazzy sounding solo from Myles Kennedy (I think) leads us back into the chorus again.
04. "Lover": I didn't personally much like this song to begin with, mostly because of a little niggle with the opening lines "If you deny the words of your lover, you will discover..." That said, with a combination of some fantastic solos, a powerful bridge, the use of so much of Kennedy's phenomenal vocal range and the slow builds present throughout the song, it's a very good song which fills it's place in this album very well.
05. "The Uninvited": Another heavy one. This apparently nearly didn't make it onto the album due to a similarity between it and Schism by Tool, but the decision to put it on is definitely a good one. It kicks off with some clean guitars and Kennedy crooning "Ah" at key points in the lick, and then... Tremonti, metal riffs, odd-metre riffs, big chorus from Myles, dissonant bridge, some lightning rolls from Flip... it's a good song, but not a stand out.
06. "Peace Is Broken": I think this song hangs on the chorus, really. The intro, verse, and chorus all comprise of fairly repetitive big riff which doesn't really do it for me, but the chorus is outstanding, with some huge melodies by both Myles and Mark. The segue into a little clean section and then a anthemic bridge led by Tremonti's strong baritone works brilliantly. Tremonti also pulls some impressive chops in a very smooth and fitting solo. Great song with the exception of that into/verse/prechorus riff, which unfortunately detracts enough to knock it out of my top few in the album.
07. "Calm the Fire": If this doesn't make it onto a film soundtrack, I may have to boycott Hollywood. It kicks off with a delicious acoustic section with some low-pass-filtered licks from Tremonti before dropping into a fantastic riff offers a fantastic melody from Tremonti with Myles providing a higher textured part which interlocks brilliantly. The chorus gives one of those "I can do anything" feelings in your chest between great riffs from the resident axemen and Kennedy's soaring vocals. There's a nice bridge too, but no solo...
08. "Waters Rising": If you've picked up Tremonti's solo album All I Was, you'll know that he's a very capable singing with a strong, smooth baritone. "Waters Rising" features Tremonti taking lead vocals, and it works brilliantly, especially when juxtaposed with Kennedy's sometimes harsh tenor. The song has some great clean verses, a couple of brilliant quick licks the revert back to open strings, a strong chorus, and a bridge that features some haunting melodies from Myles before another crushing apocalyptic Tremonti riff which leads back into the chorus. There's a great solo, which seems even bluesier than usual from Tremonti, which uses some well-established blues patterns with some shred licks for good measure, before handing over the heaviest outro on the album. What larks.
09. "Cry Me a River": The problem with a song like "Waters Rising," is that whatever follows it will be a little disappointing. That said, "Cry Me a River" makes a solid effort and manages to show itself as a reasonably good song, though it lacks the cohesiveness and raw power of "Waters Rising." The chorus is typically Alter Bridge, with some interesting melodies by Myles and some heavy Tremonti riffage. The bridge is fantastic and will no doubt be a highlight of their live show, and Flip gets another couple of great fills. The solo is also memorable and a good listen, and the song reverts to the bridge to close off, which leaves the song on a high note.
10. "Farther Than the Sun": This is another song where the main riff just doesn't appeal to me at all, but that said, after that it picks up and proves to be really a rather good song. The chorus has some weirdly swung drumming from Flip which seems to fit well and some borderline major-key vocals from Kennedy. The bridge is one of the more traditional heavy metal moments on the album, as is the solo which features some smooth legato runs drenched in wah.
11. "All Ends Well": Here is the token ballad, and my God, it's a cracker. We get some great acoustic/clean guitar to kick off the song before building up in a typical power-ballad fashion. This is one of those songs that has some "normal range tenor" from Myles and then when it gets to the chorus you can't help shaking your head in awe as Myles opens up the taps and heads for the top of his range. The chorus is beautifully optimistic, with Myles promising "If you believe in nothing else, just keep believing in yourself/There will be times of trouble, it's gonna hurt like hell/But this much I know: All ends well." The bridge is relatively catchy, and the outro again shifts to a major-like feel, but again, there's no solo where a solo would have elevated the song that much further.
12. "Fortress": This kicks off with one of the most foreboding clean intro riffs I've ever heard and some breathy singing from Myles. The chorus is dark and yet not that heavy, which in a 7 minute song, (hint) means they're saving it for later. Indeed, there a collection of crushing riffs scattered throughout the piece, but overall this piece retains a lyrical, smooth, songwriter-type feel to it. Brian Marshall gets a little bass break to himself (the second on the album) which is really nice, and there is another split solo (I think - one sounds like Myles' tone and the other like Mark's but that's just a guess) which features some great neoclassical type runs, shred passages, and melodic phrases. After that you get another clean bridge before Mark gets bored and hits the loud pedal, bringing us back to the chorus and then a great harmonized outro riff.
Overall a phenomenal effort from a phenomenal band. // 9
Lyrics: Not to discredit the fantastic playing of Brian Marshall and Scott Philips, but you buy an Alter Bridge album for two main reasons - the collection of crushing Tremonti riffage and the fantastic soaring vocals of the astonishingly gifted Myles Kennedy.
Vocally this album has a couple of brilliant performances from Kennedy - his range seems to be just as elephantine as ever, and his voice just as powerful. To have a range that size and to utilize all of it with as near-as-dammit to perfect pitch is no easy feat, and to extend a collection of truly outstanding vocal performances over four Alter Bridge albums as well as with other bands on the side puts him near the top of a very short list of performers. If you're chasing the best Kennedy performances on "Fortress," the stand out songs vocally for me would be "Calm the Fire," "All Ends Well," "Addicted to Pain" and "Bleed It Dry."
The biggest vocal asset of this album for me is in fact the Tremonti fronted song "Waters Rising." Since hearing Tremonti's vocal part in "Come to Life" off the "Blackbird" album, I've wanted to hear more from him, and having a whole song fronted by him is a treat. His smooth baritone fits brilliantly with the band, but really, his trade off/harmonized parts with Myles in "Peace Is Broken" is the highlight of the album vocally, simply because hearing those two voices together, not hidden under layers of Myles' studio harmonies is brilliant, and that's where I want to see more from this band in the future.
Lyrically this album seems a little contrived at times, which is possibly just me, but I picked up a couple of lines - "If you deny the words of your lover, you will discover..." off "Lover," "I have to find a place where I belong, I do not like what I have become" from "Farther Than the Sun" and "Now all of the fields are burning: it blocks out the sun, I see all the waters rising to drown everyone" from "Waters Rising" have an awkward cadence when sung which prompted a pang of brief disappointment from me as I felt the lyrics of Alter Bridge which have always been above reproach slip momentarily. It's something that you become more comfortable as you listen through the album though, and for the most part the lyrics are still exceptionally good - covering personal and social topics, and using a collection of smooth metaphors to put together a great album lyrically. // 9
Overall Impression: The fourth album from Alter Bridge will go down with "Blackbird" as being one of the truly great albums this quartet has produced. The songwriting is a step up on everything they've done yet, the playing is tight, the songs heavier and yet still smooth, and the overall feel of the album one of polished precision with very little repetition or filler. The production is tight, and Mark's tone is blessedly less muddy than it's been in years (apparently he's ditched his huge Mesa/Bogner Uberschall/Bogner Shiva/AxeFXII/Voodoo/ rig in favour of a Triple Rectifier and a Cornford for rhythms and the Cornford on its own for leads) though it seems that Brian Marshall's usually booming bass has been turned down a little too far in the mix and with the exception of 2 bass breaks, his parts are usually largely inaudible.
The drumming is a step up on what it was – still with jazz-rock beats mashed together with double kicks, the solos are better, and vocally the album is a gem. As I've mentioned, upon a first listen, it's less directly appealing than either "Blackbird" or "ABIII" because it is noticeably heavier and more experimental in its approach than any of the previous albums, but listen again for a while and it will become clear that this album is truly a phenomenal album from start to finish, just a few steps removed from perfection by a thimbleful of unmemorable riffs, a couple of missing solos and a few lyrics that didn't fit with my personal taste.
If someone were to steal this album off my hard drive, I would lambaste them for breaking into my house, commend them for having good taste in music and then go buy the album on disc where it can hold a place of honour in my collection besides its three elder and yet not as macho brothers.
Truly, "Fortress" is a great album which will go down alongside "Blackbird" as one of the best albums this century has offered so far. // 10