Sound — 8
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.
Lyrics — 8
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."
Overall Impression — 8
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.